New Delhi: Amid protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Northeast, President Ram Nath Kovind said Thursday the contentious legislation will give justice to persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan through Indian nationality.
Addressing the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget session, Kovind said the NDA government was mindful of the prevalence of injustice and deprivation in the society and has been working towards reforming the legal system so as to "ensure social and economic justice".
"The Citizenship Amendment Bill will help in the securing of Indian citizenship by those victims who were persecuted and were compelled to seek refuge in India. These people cannot be blamed since they were victims of circumstances," he said.
The bill provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
There has been strong opposition in Assam and other Northeastern states against the Bill.
Political parties, students groups and others have been protesting on the grounds that the Bill seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims who have come up to December 31, 2014, thereby, increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord.
Also, according to the Assam Accord, all illegal immigrants who have come after 1971, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported and this Bill violates that.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has quit its alliance with the BJP in Assam protesting against the Narendra Modi government's decision to get Parliament's approval for the Bill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the citizenship bill is an "atonement of the wrong that was done during India's Partition... India will safeguard all who had been victims of the Partition".
The Congress Wednesday said it will issue a three-line whip to its members of Rajya Sabha to vote against the citizenship bill.
The Congress had walked out of the debate in Lok Sabha, which passed it during the Winter Session on January 8.