Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday reassured Muslims that they would not be affected by the Citizenship Amendment Act, attempting to allay concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, Hindustan Times reported.

Singh told the audience at a public meeting in the city of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh that Muslims could approach the government if the need arose. The minister said the citizenship law was amended for those who were being harassed because of their religion in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Dalit and backward classes are the most affected there and they should be given citizenship if they come here as refugees,” he added.

“In Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, religious minorities are living a life of misery,” PTI quoted the minister as saying. “India has fulfilled its moral duty [by enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act]. The entire world is accepting India’’s power. We don’t do politics on the lines of religion for selfish reasons.”

Singh also defended the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens. “The government has had no discussion on the NRC,” he claimed. “And suppose it has, then what is the problem with having a register of citizens? Shouldn’t there be a register of citizens? Shouldn’t there be a document for people to seek benefits of government schemes?”

The citizens’ register is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants, and the government’s critics fear that since a religion criteria has now been added to the Citizenship Amendment Act, only Muslims will be disproportionately affected by NRC. The National Population Register is the first step towards NRC. “Government employees will approach you to ask questions but they will not force you to answer,” the minister claimed.