Claiming that the Citizenship Amendment Bill was "worse than Hitler's laws", Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi tore a copy of the legislation in the midst of a heated debate in the Lok Sabha on Monday. "It is an attempt to divide the nation. The proposed law is against our country's constitution," he declared, before ripping the document in half.
In his address to the Lok Sabha, the AIMIM chief said that Gandhi gained the title "Mahatma" after he tore the discriminatory citizenship card in South Africa, and there was no reason why he should not do the same with the Citizenship Amendment Bill. "This bill is against the constitution... it is worse than (Adolf) Hitler's law and a conspiracy to make Muslims stateless," he said, adding that the passage of such a legislation will only lead to a repeat of the 1947 partition.
Mr Owaisi also accused the BJP-led government of insulting the country's freedom fighters by trying to marginalise Muslims, and wondered why it was not concentrating its efforts on retaking parts of the country under foreign occupation instead. "Are you afraid of China?" he asked, in a reference to the neighbouring country's encroachment in Arunachal Pradesh.
Ruling party members described his act as an "insult" to the parliament.
This was not the first time the division of India and Pakistan came up in the Lok Sabha on Monday. Earlier, Union Home Minister Amit 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 shouted, 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".
The legislation seeks to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to gain citizenship in the country.