Not for rethink on CAA... Including Muslims will help earn goodwill: Sukhbir Singh Badal
The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) has triggered protests across the country. Sukhbir Singh Badal, the chief of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), a key ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre, spoke to Ramesh Vinayak about the controversial law. Edited excerpts:
As an ally of the BJP-led government, do you think there is a case for reconsidering the CAA in view of protests?
I am not for a rethink. My party’s view is that the CAA should mention minorities instead of naming religious communities [whose citizenship will be fast-tracked under the law]. Nobody in the country should feel that they have been omitted or left out. The Akali Dal has been sticking to its position right from the beginning. In Punjab, there may not be a case of a Pakistani Muslim seeking Indian citizenship due to persecution, but we are for considering that on a case-to-case basis. Even if we put the Muslims on the list of communities eligible under the CAA, it does not make any difference... but [it] will earn you goodwill.
You have only expressed an opinion and never took a stand on the inclusion of Muslims...
We are suggesting that even now. We fought for the Sikhs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, who stand to gain citizenship. We cannot jeopardise their rights now.
How would you respond to Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s statement that he will not implement the CAA, the National Register of Citizens and Nation Population Register?
Captain Saab [Amarinder Singh] cannot take any stand. He is governed by the directions of the Gandhi family.
What will be SAD’s stand if the state government brings a resolution against the CAA in the assembly?
That will just be a PR [public relations] exercise. We will stick to the position that we took in Parliament that we should include Muslims among the CAA beneficiaries.
What is your view about the anti-CAA protests?
A lot of politics has started coming into it. Now, it is one-upmanship. It is difficult to judge the real sentiments of the people because everybody has jumped onto the CAA bandwagon. Everybody is looking at his own interest now.
What will be your advice to the government and should he reach out to dissenters?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a seasoned politician. Maybe they are trying [to reach out]. They have a lot of advisers.
There is a perception that the CAA represents aggressive Hindutva, which has accentuated a sense of anxiety among minorities, especially the Muslims...
This country belongs to everybody. Sikhs are the most liberal of them. Our Guru made a sacrifice for other religions. Going by philosophy, a Muslim is as Indian as a Hindu or a Sikh. That is the idea of India. No government should make anybody feel insecure. I gave the example of my father Parkash Singh Badal in Parliament. Every community felt that he is their leader. He developed religious places of all communities. These are ways that give people confidence. It is the duty of the government to make every community feel that it is a part of India.