Dirty politics, urban Naxals behind violence, says PM Modi on protests against citizenship law
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday blamed the Congress and “urban naxals” for protests against India’s new citizenship law even as home minister Amit Shah said the government is committed to implementing the controversial legislation.
At a rally in Jharkhand’s Barhait, Modi urged the Opposition to stop “spreading lies” and indulging in “dirty politics” over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) that fast-tracks the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“The Congress is spreading lies, creating an atmosphere of fear for Muslims over the new law. Citizenship (Amendment) Act neither takes away the rights of Indian citizens nor harms them in any manner,” he added.
The home minister said in Delhi that no Indians would lose their nationality due to CAA and the legislation has been enacted only to give rights to persecuted minorities of the three neighbouring countries.
He asked students who are opposing the legislation to read it properly and understand its meaning and also sought to reassure Muslims.
“I want to tell our Muslim brothers and sisters, you don’t need to fear. Those who are living in India, there is no need to fear. No one is going to lose Indian citizenship. The Congress is trying to mislead people. The legislation is on the website. Read it. Narendra Modi believes in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ [inclusive development for all]. No injustice will be done to anyone,” he said.
A series of clashes have roiled India, especially the north-eastern states, after Parliament last week cleared the CAA, which grants citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jains who entered the country before December 31, 2014 because of religious persecution in their home countries.
Some protesters say the law is unconstitutional because it links faith to citizenship and discriminatory because it omits Islam. Others, especially in the north-east, are worried it will legitimise the claim of outsiders in their states.
Simmering anger spilled into the streets after alleged police brutality on Sunday evening at Jamia Millia Islamia and Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh Muslim University. The unprecedented violent clashes at the two campuses galvanised the student community from premier institutions across India who held protests on Monday. The prime minister also asked protesting students to try and see whether they were not being made accomplices in a “conspiracy” where “urban naxals” and others were using their “shoulders to fire” from and serve their own interests.
“ The government understands your feeling and is ready to listen you. But you have to also sense whether some political parties and urban naxals want to use your shoulders for firing,” he said, addressing students.
He also dared the Congress to announce that it will give citizenship to all Pakistanis and reverse the effective abrogation of Article 370. “The Congress should accept these challenges and make open announcements or otherwise stop spreading lies and rumours. It should stop playing guerilla politics, using others as its shield and desist from ruining young people as this will not be good for anyone,” the prime minister said in the poll-bound state.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal challenged Modi to a debate on the CAA. “We will tell the world who hugged Nawaz Sharif (former Pakistan Prime Minister) and what we had done. We will also tell who released the terrorists and how he (Modi) wanted to be friends with Pakistan. They have compassion towards Pakistan and instead blame us. We challenge you (the Prime Minister) to have one-to-one debate on this,” he said.
In Delhi, Shah indicated that the government would not back down from implementing the law, which also represents a major election promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Shah also challenged those who are against the new law to oppose the legislation as much as they can.
“Come what may, the Modi government is firm that it will ensure these refugees get Indian citizenship and live as Indians with honour.”
At the Jharkhand rally, the PM sought to allay fears about the CAA and blamed the Congress for its “politics of divide and rule” for the persecution faced by religious minorities in neighbouring countries.
“I want to ask where the citizenship right of Indian Muslims or others are affected. The law doesn’t snatch anyone’s nationality,” the prime minister said.
The prime minister said students should discuss and debate government policies and protest in a democratic manner if they had grievances. “You should understand the importance of this precious time of your life and of your institutions,” he said. “Stop committing the sin of destroying parents’ dreams who have suffered much hardship to send their children for studies. Stop fanning dirty politics of using the students for political gains,” Modi said, in an indirect reference to Opposition parties.
The Congress party dismissed the charges and said the protests that had erupted across India were spontaneous. “Students across the country are protesting against the CAA and the PM is identifying their clothes and says they are Congressmen,” said Congress leader Rajiv Shukla.
(With inputs from HTC, New Delhi, and agencies)