India’s lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which will grant citizenship to religious minorities from neighbouring countries, with legal experts saying it violates the country’s secular constitution.
The bill was passed 7 minutes past midnight on Tuesday (10th December 2019).
Some 311 MPs voted in favor of the bill, while 80 voted against.
The bill, seeks to amend the 1955 citizenship law, aims to give citizenship to “persecuted” minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but excludes Muslims.
Now the bill will go to the upper House, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lacks a majority.
Opposition parties say the bill is discriminatory as it singles out Muslims in an officially secular nation of 1.3 billion people. Muslims form nearly 15 percent of the population.
Legal experts argue that it violates Article 14 of the constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
The bill has triggered massive protests in India’s north-eastern state of Assam saying it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of all undocumented immigrants irrespective of religion. However, the new current bill sets cut-off of date of December 31, 2014.
Many point out that the bill is a part a Hindu supremacist agenda pushed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.