Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “landmark day for India” after the Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday evening. The Lok Sabha had already cleared the bill.
In a tweet minutes after the bill was passed, Modi said: “A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!”
He expressed gratitude to all MPs who voted in favour of the bill, and said the legislation would “alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years”.
The contentious bill was passed with 125 votes in support, while 105 MPs voted against it.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who tabled the bill in both Houses, tweeted that with the passage of the amendments, “the dreams of crores of deprived and victimised people has come true”. He expressed gratitude to Modi “for his resolve to ensure dignity and safety for these affected people”.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called it a memorable day and said the bill had “paved the way for the people facing religious persecution to live a life of dignity and get access to every possible opportunity”.
However, Congress President Sonia Gandhi called it a “dark day” in the constitutional history of India. She said the passage of the bill marked “the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism”.
“The bill fundamentally challenges the idea of India that our forefathers fought for and, in its place, creates a disturbed, distorted and divided India where religion will become a determinant of nationhood,” Gandhi said in the statement.
Gandhi said that the bill was not just an affront to the principles of equality and religious non-discrimination, but “represents a rejection of an India that would be a free nation for all her people”. She said that “in its design and its grave implications, it is a flawed legislation, is antithetical to the spirit of the freedom movement, and violative of the soul of India”.
“In this moment of anguish, I would like to reiterate the Congress Party’s determination to be relentless in our struggle against the BJP’s dangerously divisive and polarising agenda,” she said.
“We are a proud nation that has never been broken by the insecurity of a few, for we have always stood firm with the knowledge that free India can only remain free if her people are liberated, if her voices are heard, and if our institutions, our governments and our political forces dedicate themselves to securing the inalienable rights of the citizens of this country,” the Congress president said.
Hours after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had called the bill “an attack on the Indian Constitution”.