Indian parliament tonight gave its seal of approval to the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which gives nationality to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan after it was cleared by the Rajya Sabha with 125 voting for it and 105 against.
The legislation was tabled by Home Minister Amit Shah in the Rajya Sabha this morning, our New Delhi correspondent reports.
The bill, which came under fire from opposition parties and rights groups for allegedly discriminating against Muslim immigrants from the three neighbouring countries and violating Article 14 of the Constitution which mandates equality for all, was cleared by the Lok Sabha by a commanding majority (311 votes for and 81 against) two days ago.
The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha during the first tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government earlier this year too but was stalled in the Rajya Sabha where it lacked majority.
Moving the bill in the Rajya Sabha this morning, Shah said Indian Muslims have nothing to fear from the bill and they "were, are and will remain Indian citizens."
He said minorities in the three nations do not get equal rights. The population of minorities in these countries has come down by 20 per cent either by way of elimination or because they migrated to India, he said, adding that these migrants did not get rights to jobs and education.
The legislation which allows Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who illegally migrated to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Shah rejected the charge of vote bank politics, saying the BJP had declared its intention to bring such a legislation in its election manifesto for the 2019 general election and won the people's approval.
The coverage of the upper House proceedings by the Rajya Sabha TV today was briefly stopped when opposition lawmakers heckled Shah over his claims of protecting Assamese interests under the bill.
The bill, which prevents Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries from receiving citizenship, has sparked violent street protests in Assam and in some other states of the north east.