On citizenship bill, Congress says it may ask for changes
Tewari’s statement came after he along with other Congress lawmakers Anand Sharma, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and Jairam Ramesh studied the draft bill at a meeting in Delhi on Saturday.Updated: Dec 08, 2019 06:12 IST
The Congress on Saturday announced that it will oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) and might seek changes to the proposed legislation, which seeks 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.
“We oppose the bill as it stands constituted in the present form. We are for holistic, comprehensive and inclusive legislation on the question of refugees and illegal immigrants,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
Tewari’s statement came after he along with other Congress lawmakers Anand Sharma, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and Jairam Ramesh studied the draft bill at a meeting in Delhi on Saturday.
The Congress had last week said that it will formulate its stand on the issue after going through the draft of the bill.
The meeting followed the circulation on Friday of copies of the CAB, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week.
Opposition parties have called the bill divisive, saying it links citizenship to religion and therefore violates the Constitution. The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the draft legislation, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955.
Another Congress leader said that the party’s moves in Parliament would depend on how the debate on the CAB plays out there. “One such move could be moving amendments to the bill,” he added on condition of anonymity.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor last week said that the bill undermines the fundamental tenets of the Constitution. “I think the bill is fundamentally unconstitutional because the basic idea of India has been violated in the bill. Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood... that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of the nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, [Jawaharlal] Nehruji, Maulana Azad, Dr B R Ambedkar had said, that religion cannot determine nationhood,” he said.
“Ours is a country for everybody and everybody, irrespective of religion, has equal rights in this country, and the Constitution that they wrote reflected that. Today, this bill undermines this fundamental tenet of the Constitution.”
A six-member Congress team last month visited the northeastern states for a ground assessment on the issues of the CAB and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and submitted its report to party president Sonia Gandhi.
Around two million people in Assam were excluded when the NRC was published in July as part of an exercise to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.
In its report, the team said that all its state units were opposed to the CAB, arguing that it would destabilise the decades-old multi-ethnic, mixed-religion and multilingual society existing in the northeastern states.
The Congress is also expected to discuss the issue with leaders of the like-minded parties to put up a joint opposition front in Parliament, according to people aware of the developments.