- Before tabling this bill (in the morning) several MPs objected: Amit Shah
- In 1947, all refugees who came to India were accepted: Mr Shah
- Even Manmohan Singh-ji and LK Advani-ji were part of them, he added
Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in parliament today, firmly denying allegations it violates Article 14 of the Constitution - which guarantees equality before the law irrespective of nationality or religion - as repeatedly alleged by opposition leaders in the morning session. In a swipe at the opposition Mr Shah pointed to former Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an example of a refugee who came to India after partition in 1947, was given Indian citizenship and "contributed to the growth of India".
"Before tabling this bill (in the morning) several MPs objected... they said you can't do this because it violates Article 14. I want to say to them that you don't know... this has happened several times before and those who protest today... it has happened in their party... maybe if they read, they would know better," Amit Shah said.
"In 1947, all refugees who came to India were accepted. Even Manmohan Singh-ji and LK Advani-ji were part of them. They became PM and deputy PM because we accepted them and gave them citizenship," he said, hours after he accused the Congress of having divided India on religious lines during the partition.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, 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.
The original Citizenship Act of 1955 states 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.
Earlier today, shortly before MPs voted on allowing the CAB to be tabled, opposition leaders repeatedly cited Article 14 of the Constitution to highlight what they say is the bill's discriminatory nature.
Opposition parties have fought the CAB tooth and nail so far, contending that, among other things, it discriminates against Muslims. Last week they launched vociferous protests in parliament, with the Congress's Shashi Tharoor calling it "fundamentally unconstitutional" and Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien hitting out at the ruling BJP for "cheap and narrow" political gains.
In his response the Home Minister assured parliament that the proposed law would not violate any part of the constitution and was "not even 0.001 per cent" against India's minorities.