As the year 2019 comes to an end, it marks the end of Amit Shah's first year as Union Home Minister. 55-year old Shah, who has been PM Narendra Modi's political ally since 1982, was sworn-in as India's youngest full-time serving Home Minister in June 2019. After winning his debut Lok Sabha election from Gandhinagar in record-breaking victory margin, Shah's pilot year as Home Minister saw the passage of many contentious and significant bills, here are the top five.
The most contentious bill of the Winter session saw one of the most heated debates in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Introduced by Shah, the Lok Sabha passed it 311-80 votes and the Rajya Sabha passed it 125-105 votes on December 11. The Act amends the previous Citizenship Act 1955 to make refugees who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. Moreover, the Bill exempts exempt the inner line permit areas in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling under the Sixth Schedule in the region and will be applicable to the members of these communities having arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014.
During the passage of the bill, Amit Shah said,"Muslims have nothing to fear. This bill gives citizenship to those refugees who took refuge (in India) but were barred from availing basic facilities like homes, jobs, healthcare and education". He also claimed that Muslims were not persecuted in the Muslim-majority nations like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, which led to a great uproar in the Assembly. Protests against the Act which are still ongoing throughout the country have led to 23 deaths as of date.
The most significant bill of this year, which changed India's northernmost state - bifurcating it into two Union territories - Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, was introduced by Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha. With a signed order from President Ram Nath Kovind, Shah declared that under the clause (1) of Article 370 - Article 370 & Article 35A had been revoked. The articles which exempt Jammu and Kashmir from following the Indian Constitution except for Article 1 and itself and defines the permanent residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by giving special rights and privileges to the state subjects, were thus abolished.
Shah who then introduced the Jammu & Kashmir reorganisation Bill passed it in the Rajya Sabha by 125-61 margin and the Lok Sabha by a whooping 351-72 margin on August 5,6 respectively. While the Opposition condemned this move calling it an attack on 'Kashmiriyat', Shah said, "This historic move will correct a wrong. Article 370 has not allowed integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the country".
Prior to this revocation, the Centre had deployed thousands of additional troops into the Valley, evacuated tourists on the Amarnath yatra, detained major Kashmir leaders for security purposes. While several minor political leaders have been released from detention, prominent mainstream leaders - Mehbooa Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Sajid Lone, Farooq Abdullah etc remained detained in Jammu and Kashmir till a date which the Centre claims will be decided by the local administration. Since the revocation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories, the Valley continues to be under lockdown.
Cracking down heavily on terror, this bill introduced by Shah was passed by the Lok Sabha in 287-8 votes and the Rajya Sabha by 147-42 votes on August 2 after a fiery debate on the floor of the parliamentary house. This bill - an extension of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 amends the Act providing special procedures to counter terrorist activities, giving the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in particular additional powers while dealing with terrorism cases. Furthermore, it allows the government to designate an individiual as 'terrorist', allows NIA to conduct investigations, approve seizure of property and includes other treties in the previous Act.
Hitting out at the Congress, the Home Minister said that while BJP has always welcomed any amendments in the UAPA bill, saying,"If terrorist organisations will grow two steps, then we have to move four steps ahead. The BJP has been supporting every amendment to the UAPA, but the trend changed when Congress came in Opposition. Terror is not the problem of India alone but it is a global problem. Every country has made strong laws to fight terrorism."
Another bill which extended the power of the National Investigation Agency - the agency was set up in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack (26/11), was introduced by Shah in the monsoon session and passed by the Lok Sabha on July 8 and the Rajya Sabha on July 17. The Bill amended the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, 2008 and provides for a national-level agency to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences). Further, the Act allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.
While the Opposition claimed that the Bill will target Muslims, Amit Shah appealed to all Opposition that this bill will strengthen our agencies. He said that the bill is necessary to send a strong message to the terrorists. He added, "I want to assure the House that Prime Minister Narendra Modi government will not allow any misuse of this law".
A contentious bill which was debated as an 'attempt to endanger the Gandhi family' was introduced by Shah and passed by Lok Sabha on November 27 and the Rajya Sabha on December 3. This Bill had two major changes - only the Prime Minister of the country and the family that resides with him immediately will be given SPG security and a former Prime Minister and his family members will be provided SPG cover only for a period of five years after he or she leaves the office. The Act also proposed to provide SPG security based on threat level assessed by the Centre.
Addressing the house, Union Minister Amit Shah said, "Security cannot be made a status symbol. It's not true that we've brought the SPG Bill by keeping only Gandhi family in mind. Why demand only SPG? SPG cover is meant for only the 'head of the state', we cannot be giving it to everyone." Several Opposition members claimed that it was targetted at the Gandhis as only PM Modi is currently covered by SPG according to the new amendment.