Not implementing CAA will be unconstitutional, says Nirmala Sitharaman
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has termed the move by some opposition-ruled states to not implement the Citizenship Amendment Act as unconstitutional and said everyone in the country had an obligation to implement the act. She also asked those opposing the law to not spread “panic and anxiety by spreading falsehood”.
Sitharaman, who was speaking at an interactive session on the controversial legislation organised by Chennai Citizen’s Forum on Sunday, added that the government was willing to hold discussions with those having apprehensions about the legislation.
“We are ready to hold discussions with those having any apprehension that this law would deprive them of their citizenship,” Sitharaman said.
ALSO WATCH | ‘No state can deny implementation of CAA’: Kapil Sibal
“The CAA is not against the Muslims. None of the Muslims in the country would be affected by the CAA,” she assured.
Sitharaman said in the last six years, 2838 refugees from Pakistan, 948 from Afghanistan and 172 from Bangladesh were given citizenship including 566 Muslims.
She cited examples of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen and Pakistani singer Adnan Sami to counter the allegation that the CAA was a discriminatory ploy by the Narendra Modi government to deny Muslims citizenship of India.
Not just that, she said over four lakh Sri Lankan Tamils were also granted Indian citizenship between 1964 and 2008.
She said resolutions passed by Kerala and Punjab assemblies were mere political statements without any constitutional remit to impact a law passed by the Centre.
“Resolutions passed by state Assemblies would not have any impact on implementing the CAA,” Sitharaman said and added, “Everybody in this country has the responsibility to implement the law which has been passed in the Parliament.”
Sitharaman’s comments follow senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s statement on Saturday that states could not refuse to implement the CAA after it has been passed by the Parliament, and doing so would be “unconstitutional”.
Taking the battle to the opposition camp on the CAA, Sitharaman asked why the opposition had remained silent on the plight of refugees from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“Those who are opposing the CAA have remained silent about the condition in the refugee camps. Their life in the camps will bring tears,” she said.
Several state governments, including Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra have said they won’t implement the CAA, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population of Register (NPR).
Sitharaman said it was wrong to link NPR with CAA.
“NPR is taken every 10 years and it was not brought in by the Modi government in 2010. It was (brought) by the then home minister and senior leaders (of Congress),” she said.
Reacting to Sitharaman, Sivaganga Lok Sabha MP Karti P Chidambaram said the government should engage with people who have raised “valid” questions.
“The CAA is a blunt message aimed at people who are of the Islamic faith. It sends out the signal that Muslims will be viewed differently. This alarms all right thinking citizens. Hence, the fear and apprehension. The government must engage with all those who have raised valid questions. But the tone and tenor of the government so far has not been encouraging for a dialogue,” he told HT.
Karti also questioned Sitharaman’s claim that over 4 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils had been granted Indian citizenship and said government’s statistics was “suspect”.
“When the question is why the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees have been left out of the CAA, the figure she has given is of those Indian Origin Tamils, repatriated under the Sirimavo-Shastri pact,” he said.
K Elangovan, a political commentator and advocate at Madras High Court said the Centre’s attitude was like that of the British empire before independence.
“Refusing to have a dialogue with the political parties and belittling the protests against the CAA as orchestrated by the opposition shows that the government is behaving like the British Viceroy during the freedom struggle. The people are on the streets as it is a fight to protect the idea of India, an inclusive, pluralistic one and not to turn it into a majoritarian one.”