AIMIM president and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi on Wednesday expressed fears that BJP was seeking to push India into becoming a racially based nation.

“Nowhere in our citizenship laws is it mentioned that citizenship can be granted on basis of a religion,” Owaisi said. His sharp criticism came in the wake of comments by Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma on granting citizenship to Hindu migrants, who came into India as refugees from Bangladesh, being left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“Unfortunately the Minister from Assam has displayed his ignorance about the Constitution and his arrogance because he believes in Hindutva ideology. Religion is not mentioned in any law governing citizenship of India,” Owaisi said.

The AIMIM leader who exchanged tweets with Sarma on the subject on Wednesday, said the Minister wants to push India into the dishonourable league of what South Africa was before the end of apartheid. “If there are refugees, then protect them irrespective of their religion. But, how can refugees be granted citizenship on the basis of religion?” Owaisi asked.

He explained about the three parameters to Indian citizenship. Anyone born in India after 1950 can be a citizen as per the law that came into force on November 20, 1949. Then in 1977, the law was changed to include anyone born in India between 1977 and 2004, with one parent who is a citizen, for citizenship eligibility. After 2004, a provision was made to allow citizenship to anyone born in India whose one parent is a citizen, but the other should not be an illegal immigrant.

“I challenge any Sangh Parivar person to show laws wherein religion is mentioned with respect to citizenship. I want to remind the Sangh Parivar ideologues to read Constituent Assembly debates on the issue,” Owaisi said.

He also advised all those trying to circumvent the citizenship rules by amending existing laws, should read what Sardar Patel had said then. “Patel said it was important to remember that the provision on citizenship will be scrutinised all over the world. The Constituent Assembly rejected the racial principles of South Africa,” Owaisi said.

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