Citizenship Amendment Act fulfils wishes of Mahatma Gandhi: Prez

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday lauded the enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) saying Parliament fulfilled the wishes of Mahatma Gandhi, who had suggested after the partition that the Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India.

Addressing the joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, Kovind also said discussions and debates strengthen the democracy and violence in the name of protests weakens it.

The President said India has always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths but at the time of partition in 1947, 'this very belief of India and of its people came under the most severe attack'.

Kovind said in the environment prevailing in the aftermath of partition, the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi had said: 'Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India. It is the duty of the government of India to ensure a normal life for them'.

The President said many national leaders and political parties have from time to time supported the idea of 'Pujya Bapu' and further propagated it.

'It is our responsibility to honour this wish of the founding fathers of our nation. I am happy that both the Houses of Parliament have fulfilled this wish, by enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act.

'At a time when the country is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi ji, all of you have given paramount consideration to this sentiment. I congratulate both the Houses of Parliament and all the MPs for this,' he said.

As soon as the President made these remarks, some opposition members shouted 'shame, shame' slogans and also displayed banners.

Kovind also made it clear that the procedure to grant citizenship to people of all religions and those who have faith in India and keen to take Indian citizenship remains as it was.

'My government would like to clarify once again that the procedures which have existed for people from all faiths of the world who believe in India and who wish to obtain Indian citizenship, remain unchanged. A person of any faith can follow these processes and become a citizen of India.

'The government has made several provisions to ensure that granting citizenship to those who have been compelled to take shelter in India does not have any adverse cultural impact on any region, especially the Northeast,' he said.

The President said the Modi government is of the firm view that mutual discussions and debates strengthen democracy.

'At the same time, any kind of violence in the name of protests weakens the society and the nation,' he said, without referring to the CAA.

The President's remarks came in the wake of protests against the CAA in different parts of the country, some of which have witnessed violence.

According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, due to religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship. PTI ACB CK