HTLS 2019| MPs spar on citizenship amendment bill, NRC
Manish Tewari (Congress) and Mahua Moitra (TMC) reiterated the Opposition’s stand and said that the proposed law violates the Constitution in letter and spirit.Updated: Dec 07, 2019 23:33 IST
A lawmaker each from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) debated the finer points of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) on the second day of the 17th Hindustan Leadership Summit on Saturday, days before the draft legislation is expected to be tabled in Parliament.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the draft legislation that seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to give Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, if they entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on or before December 31, 2014. Opposition parties have called the bill divisive, saying it links citizenship to religion and therefore violates the Constitution.
Manish Tewari (Congress) and Mahua Moitra (TMC) reiterated the Opposition’s stand and said that the proposed law violates the Constitution in letter and spirit.
Tewari, who represents Ludhiana in the Lok Sabha, said the CAB is violative of constitutional provisions, including Article 15 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
He said that there was a need for a “comprehensive legislation” for refugees and to tackle the problem of illegal infiltration. Tewari added that India has “played host” to many people who have sought refuge here.
Moitra maintained that “brute majority can never replace constitutional morality” even as the BJP looks confident of clearing the bill in Parliament. It has 303 members in the 543-member Lok Sabha. “The right to refuge comes from persecution, not from religion.”
BJP lawmaker Jamyang Namgyal defended the bill saying that there are two types of refugees. “One, who come out of compulsions, and those who try to change demography.” He justified the exclusion of Muslims from the purview of the CAB, saying India is not the birthplace of Islam. “We run a country, not a dharamshala,” said Namgyal, the lawmaker from Ladakh.
Moitra questioned Namgyal’s justification, saying India is not the birthplace of Christianity either.
The three supported the need for having more women in Parliament and spoke about the changing relationship between Opposition and ruling BJP lawmakers.
Namgyal maintained that parties give tickets keeping in mind the winnability factor, which Tewari called hogwash. Moitra pointed out that the Women’s Reservation Bill may have remained pending but more than 33% of her party’s MPs are women.
Namgyal brushed aside Tewari and Moitra’s criticism and added that despite political differences, lawmakers have remained friends across party lines. He said that even Opposition parties in August supported the nullification of Constitution’s Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir special status.
Tewari disagreed and recalled how a BJP minister, his friend for 40 years, skipped his book release programme fearing he would be dropped from the council of ministers.
Moitra said that the BJP was good at exploiting grey areas in the law to force parties to toe its line. She accused the government of operating through “scare and fear-mongering”. “They have got something pretty much on everyone... something in the grey area and this government is good at working in these areas.” She added that the government has made it acceptable to say publicly what an uncle of hers with extreme views would at private dinner parties as she spoke about the growing religious divide.
Tewari spoke on how the Constitution has endured over seven decades. But he added: “In 2014, the people [BJP] who got elected... do not believe in the founding [secular] vision of India.”