Pakistan has strongly condemned the Indian Government over a controversial bill which would give citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighbouring countries: Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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Pakistan denounced the discriminatory legislation, saying it was “driven by a toxic mix of an extremist Hindutva ideology”. PM Imran Khan on Tuesday said the legislation “violates all norms of international human rights law and bilateral agreements with Pakistan”.
We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of int human rights law & bilateral agreements with Pak. It is part of the RSS "Hindu Rashtra" design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt. https://t.co/XkRdBiSp3G
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) December 10, 2019
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in India’s lower house amid boisterous debate. Opposition parties stood against the proposed law that would, for the first time, create a constitutional process to grant Indian nationality on the basis of religion.
The bill was originally introduced in 2016 during the Modi government’s first term but slipped away after protests and an alliance partner’s resignation. It proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015.
Oppositions politicians inside parliament and protesters in several Indian cities said the bill discriminated against Muslims and violated India’s secular constitution. During a lengthy debate marked by angry exchanges, opposition Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, according to AFP, said the bill “infringes upon the principle of equality before law” guaranteed to all persons, including non-citizens.
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Shah and Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which had included the CAB as part of its manifesto in the last general election, insist that it is necessary. “In these three countries, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians, followers of these six religions have been tormented,” Shah alleged before the bill was tabled after a vote.
Just after midnight, the bill comfortably passed the lower house with 311 votes in favour and 80 against, reported AFP. The bill has to be passed by the upper house, where the ruling party does not have enough votes for passage. Any bill needs to be ratified by both houses of India’s parliament to become law.
“This bill is in line with India’s centuries-old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, adding that he was “delighted” about its passage.
Delighted that the Lok Sabha has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after a rich and extensive debate. I thank the various MPs and parties that supported the Bill. This Bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 9, 2019
Pakistan Slams Controversial Bill
Pakistan Foreign Office condemned the move and said it was in “complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants on elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief”.
“The Lok Sabha legislation is also incomplete contravention of various bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India, particularly the one concerning security and rights of minorities in the respective countries.
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“The latest legislation is another major step towards the realisation of the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, idealised and relentlessly pursued by the right-wing Hindu leaders for several decades. It is driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region.
“It is also a clear manifestation of interference in the internal matters of neighbouring countries based on religion, which we reject completely,” added the statement.
“Equally reprehensible are India’s claims of claiming to be a homeland for minorities allegedly persecuted in the neighbouring countries. The massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, the Samjhauta Express carnage, frequent lynchings by cow-vigilantes, repulsive schemes like Ghar Wapsi and ‘Love Jihad’, and persecution of Christians, Sikhs, Jains.
“The ongoing massacre of 8 million unarmed Kashmiris, collectively imprisoned and castigated by 900,000 Indian forces, goes to further explain this blatantly radical mindset. This Indian legislation has also, once again, exposed the hollowness of the claims to ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’.
“We condemn the legislation as regressive and discriminatory, which is in violation of all relevant international conventions and norms, and a glaring attempt by India to interfere in the neighbouring countries with malafide intent,” said the statement.
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What is the Indian Citizenship Act?
Made law in 1955, eight years after India’s independence from the British, the Indian Citizenship Act is the basis by which citizenship was extended to Indians from all the states. This also made their earlier Commonwealth citizen status or British citizen status void, bringing the Indian people together under one citizenship umbrella.
The act has provisions to determine various kinds of citizenship including that by birth, by registration, by naturalisation or by descent.
This act is the one where a revision is being recommended. The clause that is being altered is the one that defines illegal migrants and their ability to apply for citizenship by naturalisation. The citizenship by naturalisation clause currently allows resident immigrants to get citizenship if they have lived in the country for more than 11 years – along with other terms and conditions.
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What is the Amendment Bill?
The bill, if passed, would change a key part in the category for illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan – Muslim-majority regions that were once part of the undivided India as defined in the Government of India act 1935.
The amendment recommends granting nationality to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Parsis fleeing persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan – even without any legitimate documentation.
The bill also proposes to relax the 11-year requirement of residing in India to at least 6 years for the above migrants to India under the citizenship by naturalisation clause. However, the amendment has explicitly excluded Muslims in this category.
The Indian government stated that the reason why Muslims are not included because they are able to take refuge in Islamic nations across the globe. The reasoning is that non-Muslim minorities in these nations (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan) are susceptive to religious persecution.