Addressing the Rajya Sabha during the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) on Wednesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah opined that partition on the basis of religion was the “biggest mistake”. He cited this as a justification for introducing the CAB. He contended that there was no need to amend the existing law if partition had not taken place in the first place. Earlier, in the day, 44 MPs presented their point of view on the Bill.
Shah remarked, “First, I want to give a background which will hopefully serve as an answer to most questions. There was no need to introduce this Bill in the first place. This House would not have to hear the debate on this Bill. There was no need to amend this Bill if this country wouldn’t have been partitioned. This Bill is being introduced because this country was partitioned. I have brought this Bill to address the situation arising out of partition.”He added, “The country wasn’t just partitioned. It was partitioned on the basis of religion. This was the biggest mistake. Due to that mistake, I am present here with this Bill.”
The CAB was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016. Thereafter, it was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which submitted its report on January 7, 2019. While it received the assent of the Lok Sabha the very next day, the Bill remained pending in the Rajya Sabha as BJP did not have enough numbers for its passage. After the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in May 2019, the Bill automatically lapsed.
Lok Sabha passed the Bill on Monday after a day-long debate. It seeks to provide citizenship to the minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This will be applicable to the members of these communities having arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014. Moreover, they will not be considered as illegal migrants. Additionally, the mandatory residence period for naturalised citizenship for these communities would be reduced to 5 years. Several parties in the North East such as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) have been vehemently opposed to this Bill. The opposition contends that the Bill discriminates on the basis of religion, which might go against Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality.