At the stroke of midnight, the Lok Sabha passed the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, after over seven hours of heated debate during which Home Minister Amit Shah invoked the Partition and said that the BJP had to bring the Bill because the Congress had partitioned the country in 1947 on the basis of religion.
Cleared last Wednesday by the Union Cabinet, the Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsis — leaving out Muslims — who entered the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan until December 31, 2014.
According to the home minister, the six communities mentioned are being persecuted in the three neighbouring countries and the Bill sought to grant “positive discrimination” to them.
A new provision in the Bill states that proceedings pending against any person for his or her inability to meet the citizenship criteria earlier, if eligible for citizenship under provisions of the new 2019 Bill, will be granted citizenship and the proceedings will abate.
Insisting that the provisions were not violative of the basic principles of the Constitution, the home minister pointed out that he had held consultations over the Bill with 140 delegations across 119 hours, and described it as a “rights giver, not a rights taker”. The Bill was eventually passed at 12.02 am Tuesday by a division of votes with 311 in favour and 80 against.