Rajat Sharma

Citizenship Amendment Bill has nothing to do with Indian Muslims

AKB2610The Lok Sabha, with a huge majority, passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill at midnight after a marathon day-long acrimonious and polarizing debate. Former NDA ally Shiv Sena supported the Bill, while its new allies in Maharashtra, Congress and NCP opposed. The stage is now set for a showdown in Rajya Sabha when the bill is taken up.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill provides for giving citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on grounds of religious persecution with December 31, 2014 as cut-off date.

The Congress and other opposition parties opposed the Bill saying that it goes against the right to equality as enshrined in the Constitution, by keeping out Muslims. It is pertinent to point out that the BJP had promised citizenship to these refugees who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in its election manifesto.

The recurrent theme in the Opposition’s stand was that the bill is meant to target Muslims. Their argument was that if citizenship can be given to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from the three neighbouring countries, then why not Muslims.

I want to point out that when Pakistan became independent, the proportion of Hindus was nearly 20 per cent. Today it has dwindled to 1.06 per cent due to massive religious persecution, not only of Hindus, but of Christians too. A large number of Hindus were forced to become Muslims under threats and intimidation. The few Hindus that are left in Pakistan are living in a state of fear, and even among them, many of them have fled Pakistan and have taken refuge in India, leaving behind their properties.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are Islamic states and Muslims living there do not face religious persecution because they form the majority community. Only non-Muslims come to India from these countries because of religious persecution. In India, being foreigners, they are subject to constant harassment from the police. They are practically stateless and do not have any legal rights.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is meant to provide Indian citizenship to these persecuted people. To say that this bill is anti-Muslim will be a travesty of truth. This bill will not affect Indian Muslims in any manner.

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