Did Manmohan Singh Change His Stance on CAB? Here’s A Fact-Check
Right-wing websites and BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya are claiming that Dr Singh supported Citizenship Bill in 2003
Speaking in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, 11 December, BJP Working President JP Nadda targeted the Opposition over the criticism of the Bill and said that the government was doing what the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested.
“In 2003, on the treatment of refugees and persecution of minorities in countries like Bangladesh, Dr Manmohan Singh in Rajya Sabha said to then Deputy PM Advani ji that we should have a more liberal approach in granting citizenship to them,” Nadda said.
While reading out the response, Nadda added that the party should not change its stance now that it is in the Opposition.
A similar claim was also shared by BJP’s IT Cell in-charge Amit Malviya on Twitter who accused Dr Singh of doublespeak on the issue of citizenship.
So is the claim about Manmohan Singh and Congress’ hypocrisy correct? Let’s take a look at what the CAB proposed in 2003 and how is it different from the current amendments.
How Do The Bills Differ?
The Citizenship Bill of 2003 dealt with provisions to define legal and illegal migrants and rules regarding Overseas Citizenship of India. It did not specifically talk about granting citizenship to the refugees from other countries.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 proposed by Amit Shah in the Parliament seeks to give Indian citizenship to Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikhs, Parsi or Christian refugees coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Bill excludes the Muslim community and relaxes the requirement of residence in India from 11 years to six years for these migrants.
What Did Manmohan Singh Say in 2003?
While discussing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003, Manmohan Singh suggested that India should grant citizenship to minority communities from “countries like Bangladesh” who have faced persecution.
“After the partition of our country, minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people – these unfortunate people – to seek refuge in our country, our approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal.”Dr Manmohan Singh in Rajya Sabha (2003)
Thus, he spoke about giving any persecuted minority from other countries a chance to claim citizenship in India. This statement did not restrict the idea to people from any particular religions or any particular countries, which is what the current government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 aims to do, by restricting it to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
As Dr Singh’s stance does not deal with this kind of a restricted concept, comparing it to the Congress stance on the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 is a false equivalence and is redundant.
OpIndia Targets Singh, Says Congress Does a U-Turn
Various media outlets, including right-wing website, OpIndia targeted the grand-old party and Manmohan Singh for changing their stance on the Bill.
According to a report by right-wing website OpIndia states, “In a hurry to oppose the decision of the BJP government, the Congress party seems to have exposed its hypocrisy on the issue of granting citizenship to the persecuted minorities from the neighbouring countries.”
The report further claims that when the Citizenship Bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha in 2003 by LK Advani, Dr Manmohan Singh was in favour of giving citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh who had taken refuge in India because of persecution.
OpIndia has been caught peddling disinformation multiple times in the past and The Quint has debunked many such claims made by the website.
Another website which goes by the name The True Picture published a report on similar lines claiming that the Congress has been shifting its stance on the issue of Citizenship. The report used Manmohan Singh’s speech in the Parliament to back its claims.
Evidently, an old remark made by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2003 has been used to target him and the Congress in the light of the ongoing Citizenship Amendment Bill debate. When in fact, the Opposition including the Congress has suggested that their major issue with the Bill proposed in 2019 is the exclusion of Muslims and minority communities from countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar – in sharp contrast to the 2003 Bill.
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