CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was a direct assault on India's secular character and the Parliament had "no authority" to pass a law that "defiled" the Constitution and violated its basic principles.
A day after the Bill was passed by Parliament, the Congress leader said, instead of using brute majority in Parliament to push through the Bill, the central government should have discussed the matter with all parties and tried to evolve a consensus "if at all it felt the legislation was in the interest of India and its people".
Any legislation that seeks to "divide the people of the country on religious lines is illegal and unethical, and could not be allowed to sustain," he said in a statement.
The move is retrograde and regressive and seeks to take India back from the progressive charter mandated by its Constitution, he charged.
"By linking citizenship with religion, the Bill will hit at the very foundation of the nation...What if other countries, where Indians are settled in large numbers and have acquired their citizenship, decide to bring in similar legislation? What will happen to those Indians if the countries of their stay decide to withdraw their citizenship on account of their religious beliefs?" the chief minister asked.
"The Congress government in the state, on its part, would not let the legislation rip apart the secular fabric of the country, whose strength lies in its diversity," Singh said.
The Bill, which proposes to give citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who have come to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh facing religious persecution there, was passed by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and by Lok Sabha on Monday.
During the discussion on the Bill in Rajya Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the legislation would be enforced across the country.