"Partition On Basis Of Religion": Amit Shah's Swipe At Congress

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in Lok Sabha

New Delhi:

The Congress divided India on religious lines, Home Minister Amit Shah charged today as he rebutted the opposition's argument that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill runs contrary to the principles of equality and secularism under the constitution.

"The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill wouldn't have been needed if the Congress had not allowed partition on basis of religion. It was the Congress that divided the country on religious lines, not us," Amit Shah shouted as Congress members alleged that the proposed law was against Muslims and opposed the tabling of the bill in the Lok Sabha.

The proposed law is not a violation of any article of the constitution and made a "reasonable classification", said the Home Minister, insisting that it was "not even 0.001 per cent" against India's minorities.

"Reasonable classification is done. I can discuss laws from across the world that talk about equality. If this is how we want to define equality, why doesn't it apply to the minorities we are referring to? Please explain how minorities get special quota and status for things like education," said Amit Shah, asserting that Article 14 is not a hurdle.

Article 14 of the Constitution stresses on equality before the law and equal protection of laws.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend a six-decade-old law to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had earlier said, "Those who believe religion should determine nationhood, that was the idea of Pakistan." In the notice that Mr Tharoor gave this morning, he said the bill "endorses the idea of religious discrimination by allowing individuals of only six religious identities to acquire citizenship while excluding the individuals belonging to other religious identities".

The original Citizenship Act of 1955 stated that individuals seeking Indian citizenship should have lived in the country for 11 of the last 14 years. The amendment proposes to reduce that time period to five years for non-Muslim applicants, and grants them immunity from government action.

"In 1970, Indira Gandhi took a decision to give citizenship to those from Bangladesh... Why can't people from Pakistan be given citizenship," Mr Shah questioned.