As Narendra Modi government is all set to table the historic Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which seeks to grant citizenship to all non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan facing religious persecution, the Congress party seems to be upset and has expressed its opposition to the initiative which grants citizenship to persecuted minorities of our neighbouring countries.
On Wednesday, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor claimed that the new bill violates the basic idea of India that religion can never be a reason for citizenship. He added that ours is a country for everybody, irrespective of religion, has equal rights in this country and the Constitution that they wrote reflected that. “Today, this bill undermines this fundamental tenet of the Constitution”, he added.
Echoing a similar sentiment, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had also said that the Congress will take a leadership role in building an alliance with like-minded parties against the CAB and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
He went on to accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home minister Amit Shah and the BJP of using CAB as a political tool to divert the people’s attention from the main issues of the country like current growth pangs of India.
However, in a hurry to oppose the decision of the BJP government, the Congress party seems to have exposed its hypocrisy on the issue of granting citizenship to the persecuted minorities from the neighbouring countries. It is, in fact, surprising to see that the Congress party has now chosen to oppose an idea to which the party had vehemently supported in the past.
On December 18, 2003, former Prime Minister and Congress MP Manmohan Singh, who was then leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had spoken in the Upper House in favour of giving citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh who had taken refuge in India because of persecution.
— Yo Yo Funny Singh (@moronhumor) December 19, 2019
In the Rajya Sabha, Manmohan Singh who was yet to become country’s Prime Minister had said, “After the partition of our country, minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people, these unfortunate people, to seek refuge in our country, our approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal.”
Clarifying the Congress party stand on the issue, the then Rajya Sabha leader of opposition Dr Singh had stated, “It is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people, these unfortunate people, to seek refuge in our country, our approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal”.
“I sincerely hope that the Deputy Prime Minister (LK Advani) will bear this in mind in charting out the future course of action with regard to the Citizenship Act,” Singh had said in Rajya Sabha in 2003.
The opposition parties, especially Congress has been expressing its resentment publicly against the Citizenship Act, 1955 on the pretext that it violated the ‘secular’ character of the country. Secondly, the parties claim that not allowing Muslim refugees from these countries is contravention to the fundamental rights of an individual under Article 14.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the existing law in order to grant Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians, who come to India because of religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan even if they do not possess proper documents.
The CAB will propose to amend the definition of illegal migrants, reduction in the number of years of residency period to obtain Indian citizenship through naturalisation and empower the Centre to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizen of India card in case of any violation.