Union Cabinet yesterday cleared the Citizenship Amendment Bill and is all set to introduce it in the parliament this week. Citizenship Amendment bill is a landmark act which upholds the Indian ethos of giving refuge to persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Shifting Stance of Congress
After the Union Cabinet’s decision to clear Citizenship Amendment Bill was announced yesterday, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor had come out with a statement saying that bill is fundamentally unconstitutional because the basic idea of India has been violated in the bill.
Let’s keep aside for a second the fact that the bill is perfectly legal and constitutional way of providing citizenship to persecuted minority refugees from neighbouring countries but Mr Tharoor is also directly contradicting the stance taken in 2003 by the then Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Dr Manmohan Singh.
On 18th of December, 2003 during the winter session of parliament, the then Deputy Prime Minister of India LK Advani rose to introduce the Citizenship Amendment, 2003 on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. This bill dealt with issue of recognizing the rights and rules related to Overseas Citizens of India.
Supporting the Bill that was introduced by the Government, Dr Manmohan Singh made an additional suggestion that the government should also grant citizenship to persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries who are seeking refugee in India. Adding that it was our moral obligation to grant refuge to persecuted minorities (he specifically mentions minorities in countries like Bangladesh and it is crystal clear what he had in mind), Dr Singh requested the Government to adopt a liberal approach and bear this in mind while making changes to the citizenship amendment act in the future. The transcript of the proceedings have been attached below.
This suggestion was fully endorsed by Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani who also went onto differentiate between refugees coming in due to religious persecution and illegal immigrants coming in for economic reasons.
While UPA Government led by Dr Manmohan Singh which came to power in 2004 had failed to incorporate the suggestions made by Dr Singh when it amended the citizenship Act in 2005. The same is now being done by the Modi Government by granting citizenship to refugees being persecuted for religious reasons in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.