India is duty-bound to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries as they are "victims" of the decision to divide the country on religious lines, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav has said while defending the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Non-Muslim refugees, who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan after facing religious persecution, will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship under the Bill which is set to be introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Responding to criticism of the Bill from political parties, Mr Madhav said a similar legislation ''Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam)'' Act was enacted in 1950 by the then Congress government led by Jawaharlal Nehru.
"Let me remind the critics of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Nehru government had passed a similar bill in 1950 for expulsion of illegal immigrants mainly from erstwhile Pakistan (Bangladesh) and had categorically said that minorities of East Pakistan wouldn't be covered under the bill," Mr Madhav told PTI in an interview.
Asserting that India has always kept its doors open for oppressed minorities, Mr Madhav said.
"The persecuted minorities of the neighbouring countries, which are proposed to be given citizenship in the bill, are victims of the historical decision to divide this country on religious lines. And India is duty-bound to give citizenship rights to these minorities."
Mr Madhav, who is the party's pointsman for Northeastern states, said the government and Home Minister Amit Shah held extensive consultations with various stakeholders from the region to address their apprehensions.
He said the government will address all apprehensions of the states about the changes in their demography, language and culture due to this bill.