The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, "hurts the very soul of the Constitution of India", the Congress's Anand Sharma told the Rajya Sabha this afternoon. In an impassioned plea to Home Minister Amit Shah, who rose shortly before to table the controversial bill, Mr Sharma said the passing of the bill would be "an insult to our founding fathers and our rich history and be remembered as a shameful incident in history". The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which looks to make it easy for non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to become Indian citizens, has been protested by the opposition on grounds of discrimination and that it violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
"I am here to tell you Chairman Sir, that both me and my party do not agree with this bill and its contents. We cannot find ourselves able to align with this bill. We feel it is unconstitutional. In fact, I am convinced that this bill is an assault at the very foundation of the constitution of India. It hurts the very soul of the Constitution of India. It goes against the very preamble of the constitution," Anand Sharma said.
Minutes before Mr Sharma spoke, Amit Shah rose to introduce the Citizenship Bill, vehemently denying opposition claims that it discriminates against Muslims and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which grants equality before law and equal treatment before law for all, irrespective of their nationality or religion.
The Home Minister, who on Monday said the bill was "not even 0.001 per cent" against India's minorities, said Muslims of the country need not fear the bill, for "they are and will remain citizens of the country".
In his speech Mr Sharma also hit back at Amit Shah for comments he made about the Congress dividing India on religious lines during the Partition of 1947.
"Let us set the history record clear... The two-nation theory was opposed vehemently by the Congress. It was Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha that passed legislation on the two-nation theory in Ahmedabad in 1937. Congress leaders who protested strongly were put in jail. That is when the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League came forward and suggested this solution to Her Majesty's government," he said.
In an impassioned plea Anand Sharma also referred to two former Congress Prime Ministers - Manmohan Singh and IK Gujral - pointing out that they, with lakhs of others, migrated from East and West Pakistan (after Partition), and were given citizenship; Mr Shah made a similar argument in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
"What is the government trying to do here? Why make this process based on religion? Why keep out a certain community?" Mr Sharma questioned, adding, "If this bill is passed in Parliament today, it will be an insult to our founding fathers and our rich history. It will be remembered as a shameful incident in history".