Swamy not only explained why the bill was not discriminatory but also cited resolutions and memorandum to prove that many Congress leaders had wanted the same provisions for the persecuted Hindus.
Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 debate: Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday pulverised Congress’ arguments that the Citizenship Amendment Bill was against Article 14 of the Constitution. He not only explained why the bill was not discriminatory but also cited resolutions and memorandum to prove that many Congress leaders had wanted the same provisions for the persecuted Hindus. Taking the floor in Rajya Sabha to speak on the bill, Swamy said that the Congress was confusing the Citizenship Amendment Bill with the National Register of Citizens.
Speaking on the opposition by the Congress, Swamy said that the grand old party had demanded similar provisions as far back in 1950. He said: “On November 25, 1947, the Congress Working Committee met and passed a resolution urging citizenship for refugees of Pakistan and said: ‘Congress is bound to afford full protection for all those non-Muslims from Pakistan who have crossed the border and come over to India or may do so to save their life and honour’- now they are saying you can’t do this.”
He further said that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had called for a liberal approach from the government in granting citizenship to persecuted minorities from our neighbouring countries. Swamy then quoted Manmohan Singh as saying: “Minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution. It is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people to seek refuge in our country, our approach in granting citizenship to these unfortunate people should be more liberal.”
The BJP leader further claimed that former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2012, pleading that the religious minorities had to flee due to discrimination and religious persecution at the time of partition, they should not be treated foreigners and given citizenship. “And later, he filed an affidavit in Gauhati High Court and said that this is something our government would like to do,” Swamy said.
He said that most of the Congress leaders argued about the NRC and those who talked about the Bill had misled the House. Responding to Kapil Sibal who had said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill has no reference whatsoever to religious persecution, Swamy said: “He ought to know that in the Constitution, there is Article 11 which says – Parliament to regulate the right to citizenship by law. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provisions with respect to the acquisition or termination of citizenship an all other matters relating to citizenship.”
He then went to read the amendments that have been introduced in the bill and said: “So the whole amendment that has been brought in is to bring this consideration that a fairly large number of people are running away from Pakistan and they are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christians and Parsis.” He said that this was done because if one looks at the population of these minorities, there has been a very sharp decline since 1950. “This happened due to a great deal of genocidal action against these people. The same thing in Bangladesh – there are daily occurrences against the Hindus. And Afghanistan, one needs hardly say what the Taliban has been doing,” he added.
Coming back to Article 14, Swamy said that it does not bar this particular amendment. Referring to a case, he said that a nine-judge bench had once ruled – when it comes to Article 14, only equal groups in terms of entitlement (can be considered). “Article 14 says that you can make distinctions. And we have made this distinction – in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, these minority groups have been singled out for ill-treatment and oppression,” he added.
Arguing why the government was right in excluding Sri Lanka from the purview of the Bill, Swamy said: “Sri Lankan Tamils did not come to our country due to religious persecution. There was a full-fledged war in the Tamil area of Sri Lanka. After this government came, they are all going back. The government of India has built houses for them. All this business of genocide is LTTE propaganda. Our Parliament cannot be used for LTTE propaganda.”