New York: The amended Citizenship Act is not anti-Muslim, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh assured the Indian community here and said “our culture does not teach us to hate”.
According to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
Singh, who arrived in the US on Monday for the 2019 US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington on December 18, addressed members of the Indian community here during an event organised by the Consulate General of India at the educational organisation, Asia Society.
He spoke on various decisions taken by the Narendra Modi government, including the abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Triple Talaq bill and India’s response to terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
“The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which is now law, is not anti-Muslim,” Singh said.
He said the law aims at providing citizenship to minorities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains fleeing religious persecution in India’s neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Singh said Muslims are not included in the CAA as these three countries are “theocratic” and “Islamic” states and “in an Islamic state, at least those who follow the religion of Islam do not face religious persecution. May be they face some other persecution but not religious persecution because the religion of that state is Islam”.
“That is why, we didn’t give it to Muslims. Otherwise we are not the ones to discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Our culture does not teach us to hate,” he said amid an applause from the audience.
“I consider every Muslim living in India as my brother, as my family member,” he said, adding that it is India which has given the message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ to the world.
Singh stressed that one cannot win over the people by bringing in a “sense of alienation with our behaviour. If we have to make someone ours, we can do that only by instilling a sense of confidence in them”.
In response to a question about protests and disruptions in Assam and Bengal over the CAA, he said, “The situation is under control. Any confusion will be removed.”
“I want to make it clear that the CAB is not anti-Muslim. If anyone can tell me that the CAB is anti-Muslim, then we will rethink about CAB” but not if someone tries to just create an air over the issue. “This will not do.”
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will host Singh and Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar on December 18 for the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
On the issue of the Triple Talaq, Singh said India will not tolerate if its Muslim mothers, sisters and daughters face injustice.
Applauding the courage and valour of India’s armed forces, Singh recalled his France visit in October to receive the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets at a facility of Dassault Aviation in the French city Bordeaux.
He said now that India will have the jets, “if we have to eliminate the terror camps, there will be no need to take the planes to Pakistan. We can do it from India”.
Replying to a member of the audience who commented that Singh had said that if talks are held with Pakistan, it will now be on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the defence minister said, “Baat kya hogi, PoK toh apna hai hi (What is there to talk, PoK is ours)”, amidst a loud cheer from the audience.
Singh had said that if talks were held with Pakistan in future, it would be only on PoK.
Singh said India’s military strength is increasing, but the country also takes precaution even when dealing with Pakistan.
He said if India wanted, it could have attacked the military establishments and civilian areas in Pakistan but that would have resulted in a lot of casualties.
“But we took precaution and decided that we have to target and eliminate only those places where there are terror training camps. Not one civilian was killed and neither did we attack any Pakistani military establishment. We never want to attack a country’s sovereignty. This is our character.”
Singh said India wants to have good relations with Pakistan. He referred to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee going to Lahore in 1999. “But what did Pakistan give to us in return – Kargil.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also decided to invite Heads of State and government of neighbouring countries to his oath-taking ceremony in 2014.
During his first term on 2014, Modi had extended invitation to SAARC leaders, including the then Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif, to his oath-taking ceremony.
“This signifies the thought process of our Prime Minister. We should have good relations with our neighbouring countries…but how Pakistan behaves with us, you can see,” Singh said.
On the abrogation of Article 370 to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, he said the BJP government has done what it had promised in 1951.
“In independent India, the biggest crisis in Indian politics has been that there has been a difference in the words and deeds of a politician. Because there was a difference between the words and deeds of politicians, this lead to a crisis of credibility towards the politics, politicians in India…the BJP accepted this challenge of crisis of credibility. We have done what we said.” Singh said.