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Citizenship (Amendment) Bill Cleared By Union Cabinet, Muslims Slam It As ‘Unconstitutional’

The controversial and sectarian Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, which seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday for tabling in parliament, inviting widespread criticism.

Muslim organisations slammed the bill as ‘unconstitutional’, for excluding Muslims, and for making religion as a criterion to grant citizenship.

Popular Front of India (PFI) hit out at the centre over the bill, accusing the BJP-led government have “utter disregard” for the constitution.

“The BJP government has shown its true communal colour by effectively leaving out the Muslims from this list. The government’s claim that only persecuted religious minorities are given this opportunity doesn’t stand ground, as the Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted ethnic minorities as per the United Nations. Interestingly, Afghanistan does not share a border with India, while Myanmar shares a border with India,” PFI said in a statement.

“Religion cannot be a criterion in granting citizenship and by doing so the BJP government has gone against Articles 5 to 10, Article 15 and Article 29 of the Indian constitution which details various categories of persons who are entitled to citizenship. The move is also against Article 14 which guarantees equal rights to all,” it further said.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the Centre’s decision to bring in CAB is akin to bringing to life Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory.

“Bringing CAB will be a dishonour to our freedom fighters because you will be reviving the two-nation theory. As an Indian Muslim, I rejected Jinnah’s theory now you are making a law wherein, unfortunately, you will be reminding the nation of two-nation theory,” Owaisi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The Cabinet’s decision follows Home Minister Amit Shah’s meetings with the leaders from the North East, where the proposed citizenship rules have faced strong protests. Over the last week, he has held discussions with both political and non-political organisations from Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh on the proposed legislation.

On the reports that Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, where Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime is applicable, will be exempted from the purview of the bill, the Hyderabad MP said, “If media reports are correct that Northeast states will be exempted then it in itself is a great violation of Article 14 which is a fundamental right. You can’t have two laws on citizenship in the country.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Sana Iltija Javed slammed termed the bill as an indication that the country’s BJP-led central government discriminates against Muslims.

“India – No country for Muslims,” a message posted through the Peoples Democratic Party chief’s Twitter handle claimed, hours after the Union cabinet cleared the sectarian bill. As the Peoples Democratic Party chief has been in detention since August 5, when the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 was scrapped, her daughter operates her social media accounts.

This is not the first time Mehbooba Mufti or her daughter has accused the government of targeting Muslims. “The Government of India’s intention is clear and sinister. They want to change the demography of the only Muslim-majority state in India, disempower Muslims to an extent where they become second-class citizens in their own state,” a tweet posted through the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister’s Twitter handle read hours after Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was scrapped four months ago.

Many took to social media to express their anger and displeasure at the approval of the bill.

Many oppositions leaders also slammed the bill, accusing the BJP-led government of creating unrest in the country.

Earlier in January this year, the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha as they were not passed by the Rajya Sabha.

The bill is set to clear Lok Sabha easily. However, in Rajya Sabha, the government may find it challenging to pass the legislation. Several parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Left parties have opposed the bill.

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