Clarifying that the CAB — it proposes to give citizenship to refugees of all religions except Islam — has got nothing to do with NRC, Shah countered Opposition criticism of the Bill being discriminatory
With his party and its government in Assam opposed to the National Register of Citizens, especially over the exclusion of many Hindus from the final list, Union home minister Amit Shah on Wednesday told Rajya Sabha that whenever the NRC exercise is extended to the whole country, it will have to be repeated in Assam.
Replying to a question by nominated MP Swapan Dasgupta during the Question Hour, Shah also reiterated the government’s commitment to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, saying it is of the firm belief that Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi, Sikh and Christian refugees from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan deserve to get Indian citizenship. “That is why CAB was brought to ensure such religious refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have been persecuted for their religion, can become citizens,” he said.
On the NRC in Assam, Shah said: “The NRC exercise in Assam was undertaken as per an order of the Supreme Court and as per a separate Act. When the NRC exercise is replicated across the country, it will naturally have to be repeated in Assam. I want to make it clear again that people of any religion should not feel scared. Everybody will be included in NRC. As for the gazette notification that the member referred to, it is applicable across the country.”
The gazette notification mentioned was from September 7, 2015 which dealt with Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, and referred to “persons belonging to minority communities in Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014”.
This was the first time that the government had told Parliament about the probability of an NRC exercise for the whole country.
Last December, the Union home ministry, replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, said: “The exercise to update NRC 1951 is being conducted under the special provisions in respect of State of Assam under the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship Rules, 2003. At present, there is no proposal to extend the National register of Citizens to states other than Assam.” This was the ministry’s reply to unstarred question number 1235 that came up in Lok Sabha on December 18, 2018.
To Congress member Ripun Bora’s question about when would Tribunals — where people who have been left out from NRC can go for redressal — become functional in Assam, Shah did not give a specific reply. Tribunals, he said, would be formed in every tehsil and the lawyers’ expenses for people left out of NRC would be borne by the Assam government.
Clarifying that the CAB — it proposes to give citizenship to refugees of all religions except Islam — has got nothing to do with NRC, Shah countered Opposition criticism of the Bill being discriminatory. “Chairman Sir, the Bill was passed by Lok Sabha, scrutinised by a joint Select Committee which had people from all political parties. Whatever it says about religion is there with the consent of all parties. This not a new thing,” he said.