Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday (February 11) described the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as a ‘discriminatory and divisive’ law whose ‘sinister’ purpose was to divide people on religious lines, and asserted that the NPR in form and content was ‘disguised NRC’.
Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, Gandhi also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah over the amended citizenship law, accusing them of making provocative statements.
The Congress demands that a comprehensive high-powered commission be constituted to enquire into the incidents connected with anti-CAA protests, she said.
The Congress leader said thousands of young men and women, especially students, have realised the “grave harm” that implementation of the new citizenship law will cause.
They have taken to the streets braving the cold as well as police brutalities, Gandhi said, adding that it is clear the government is “digging in its heels” as the students’ protests gain momentum.
“Not a day passes without the Home Minister and on some days the Prime Minister himself making provocative statements,” the Congress president said.
“The situation in some states is alarming, turning the states into police states, notably in Uttar Pradesh and the Union Territory of Delhi,” she said.
Apart from Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, top party leaders P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, A K Antony, KC Venugopal, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia were among those present.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi was not present at the meeting.
Coming down hard on the National Population Register (NPR), Gandhi asked the Congress top brass to not be under any illusion that it was a “benign exercise”.
She said the government at first thought the NRC exercise could be carried out throughout the country, but after the disastrous results in Assam it has hit upon the idea of NPR.
“In form and content, NPR 2020 is a disguised NRC. As a party in government in several states, we must take a wise and uniform decision,” Gandhi said.
The New Year has just begun, bringing in more disturbing news of conflict, authoritarianism, economic woes, crime and soured relation, she said.
In a take down of the CAA, she said the law was passed amidst strong protests in the winter session of Parliament, and was a “big issue” before the CWC.
“The CAA is a discriminatory and divisive law. The sinister purpose of the law is clear to every patriotic, tolerant and secular Indian: it is to divide the Indian people on religious lines,” Gandhi said.
The CWC must categorically declare that millions of Congress workers will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of India in their struggle for equality, equal protection of the laws, justice and dignity, she told the top Congress leaders.
“We are appalled by the police excesses and use of brute force in many towns of UP, in Jamia Millia, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Banaras Hindu University, Allahabad University, Delhi University, Gujarat University, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru,” she said.
“We have no faith that either the UP state government or the LG of Delhi will bring the culprits to justice. We, therefore, demand that a comprehensive high-powered commission should be constituted to enquire into the incidents connected with the anti-CAA protests and justice to the affected persons,” she said.
Gandhi also hit out at the government over the state of the economy and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government has neither the wisdom nor the will to take measures to stop the downslide in the economy which is causing untold misery to practically all sections of society, she alleged.
It is a matter of anguish and concern that the people in Jammu and Kashmir continue to be denied their fundamental rights while the government makes farcical claims of normalcy and arranges guided tours for diplomats, she said, referring to the visit of 15 envoys including the US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster to Jammu and Kashmir.
Former chief ministers and senior leaders of mainstream parties continue to be in detention and the shut down in the Valley is now in its fifth month, she said, adding that it is important that the fundamental rights of citizens are respected and restrictions are lifted.
The Congress chief also expressed grave concern over the recent developments in the Gulf region where tensions have spiralled between the US and Iran over the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
“For India, much is at stake — our energy security and the welfare of large Indian diaspora. Any escalation of the conflict will have serious consequences for the region and the world. We hope that the current situation will be diffused,” she said.
No force on earth can stall CAA implementation, says BJP
The BJP asserted on Saturday that “no force on earth” can stall the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act and accused the Congress of duplicity over the law and the National Population Register process.
The BJP’s response came after the Congress Working Committee, the apex body of the opposition party, demanded in its meeting that the CAA be withdrawn and process of NPR be stopped forthwith.
“The CAA has already come into effect and no force on earth can stall its implementation. In all its outreach efforts, the BJP has been highlighting the Congress” duplicity on CAA and NPR,” BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said.
He said the Congress had made a promise in Rajasthan election manifesto on citizenship for Hindu refugees.
“Citizenship for Hindu refugees in Rajasthan and Gujarat was extended by the Manmohan Singh government on two occasions in 2005 and 2006,” Rao said, adding Singh as leader of the opposition had demanded citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“On the NPR too, the Congress needs to explain why the NPR in 2010 was secular and acceptable while it becomes dangerous in 2020. On both CAA and NPR, the Congress is hypocritical. The BJP would expose the Congress party’s doublespeak,” Rao added.