Union Home Minister Amit Shah today called for an end to protests in the Northeast against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, saying that appropriate exceptions have been made to ensure that its regional identity is protected.
"I just want to tell the people that all the objections posed by north-eastern states have been addressed in this bill. There is no reason to get alarmed, there is no need to protest, enough has happened already, now this country just wants to go ahead peacefully," Mr Shah said, urging agitators to not be swayed by those opposed to the bill.
The Union Minister was referring to the ongoing protests in the Northeast region, where the influential North East Students Organisation has announced an 11-hour shutdown on Tuesday against what it claims is an attempt to nullify the Assam Accord of 1985. The protesters have also termed the legislation, which seeks to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to gain citizenship, as an "attempt to rob the Northeast of its identity".
Mr Shah said in his address that while Nagaland and Mizoram remain protected by the Inner Line Permit, Manipur has also been included in view of its residents' sentiments on the matter. "Meghalaya -- on the other hand -- is protected by the Sixth Schedule, which has been kept out of the ambit of the bill," he added.
The Union Minister, who also heads the ruling BJP, claimed that the bill was introduced after extensive negotiations with all the stakeholders concerned. "It's not like I did not hold discussions with anybody. I have spoken to over 140 non-governmental organisations and political parties, besides the chief minister of every north-eastern state for over 119 hours. All their suggestions have been incorporated in the bill," he said, adding that it was crucial that the people understand how the legislation would help thousands of migrants from minority communities that are being persecuted in other countries.
Earlier, Mr Shah had rejected the Congress' claim that the bill was discriminatory by pointing out that even India was partitioned on the basis of religion. "The Citizenship Amendment Bill wouldn't have been needed if the Congress had not allowed partition on the basis of religion. It was the Congress that divided the country on religious lines, not us," he asserted, adding that the proposed law "was not even 0.001" against the country's minorities.
The Home Minister's outburst came in response to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor's remark that the bill "endorses the idea of religious discrimination by allowing individuals of only six religious identities to acquire citizenship while excluding those belonging to other religious identities".