Even as the Lok Sabha passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill late on Monday, 9 December night, the AIADMK received severe criticism for having supported the Bill, which excludes Muslim refugees of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh from the path to citizenship.
While the ruling party in Tamil Nadu has just one lawmaker in the Lok Sabha (Theni MP OP Raveendranath Kumar), senior AIADMK leader and Rajya Sabha MP A Navaneetha Krishnan told the media that the AIADMK would support the Bill.
AIADMK’s decision to support the Bill has drawn criticism from various quarters. Many have pointed out that late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa would not have endorsed the Bill. The Bill aims to provide citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Specifically, it outlines refugees belonging to six religions— Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
DMK MPs pointed out in parliament that the Bill excludes thousands of Tamil refugees who fled persecution in Sri Lanka, another of India’s neighbouring countries. VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan asked Home Minister Amit Shah, “There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils ie Eelam Tamils in the country. 70,000 are still in refugee camps. By your definition, they would be considered Hindus. But why hasn't this government come forward to give them citizenship? Is it because they are Tamils? Are Tamils and Muslims people you can simply exclude?”
Terming the Bill ‘half-hearted’, DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran said:
“There are Muslims in Sri Lanka who are also part of Tamil Nadu or Tamil Sri Lankans who have been living there. For 30 years, they are in our refugee camps. What are you going to do for them? You have not even addressed the issue because of your preoccupation of hating Muslims.”Dayanidhi Maran, DMK MP
The AIADMK’s move to support the Bill despite its exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils appears to be a U-turn for the party under the leadership of Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. Only three years ago, in 2016, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa had promised that her party would take steps to get a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka and will demand that the Centre award dual citizenship for refugees from Sri Lanka.
The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday itself and was followed by heated debates that lasted for around 12 hours in parliament. Opposition leaders slammed the legislation for going against the secular, democratic foundational values of India.
It was finally passed late on Monday night with 311 Members of Parliament voting in favour of the Bill and 80 MPs who voting against it. The 311 MPs include those from the BJP, BJD, JDU, Shiv Sena and AIADMK.
Actor Siddharth took to Twitter to slam the current leadership of the AIADMK, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami. “Deeply ashamed that Edapadi Palanisamy represents my state and our people. Supporting the #CAB shows his true colours, his lack of integrity and his desperate need to remain powerful at any cost. You will all be held accountable. Enjoy your temp power till then. #IndiaRejectsCAB,” he tweeted.
Siddharth also stated that Jayalalithaa would never have supported the bill and that the AIADMK has ‘crashed in its ethos, in her absence’.
Many others also hit out at the AIADMK on Twitter for its support to the Bill in parliament.
(This article was originally published on The News Minute.)