The 71st Republic Day and its eve were marked by sharp political rhetoric with leaders on both sides of making both explicit and veiled remarks on the new Citizenship Amendment Act.
On January 25, Union Home Minister Amit Shah reiterated the Centre’s commitment to implementing the CAA. Addressing a rally in New Delhi, he slammed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and said the latter ‘had misled’ the people on the CAA. He had also stated that BJP, if voted to power, would ‘rid Delhi of Shaheen Bag,’ a major centre of anti-CAA protests. Taking a cue from the AAP’s political strategy, Shah said the BJP wanted a Delhi which was ‘world-class, where every house has drinking water and power.’
Raise protests: PC
On the other side, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the need of the hour was to ‘raise the protests to the next level.’ In a tweet, he said, “As we raise the flag today, let us also raise the level of protest.” he said in one of his tweets.
As we raise the flag today, let us also raise the level of protest.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 26, 2020
He said the government was baselessly accusing the Congress and the AAP of backing the protests, especially in Shaheen Bag. Chidambaram began the tweets by saying that no government could take away the freedom bestowed upon the people by themselves by the Constitution.
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He said, “Happy Republic Day. The soul of the Constitution lies in the freedoms guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution. These freedoms were given by the People unto themselves. No government can take them away,” he wrote.
He said freedom can never be partial, referring to the restrictions imposed on Jammu and Kashmir. He said the government was adopting an approach of highhandedness in J&K after scrapping Article 370.
“Remember that today as we think of the 70 lakh people of the Kashmir valley whose freedoms have been taken away, including those in custody for over 6 months, without charges,” he said.
Take a pledge: Mamata
Another voice of dissent was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has been at the forefront of the anti-CAA protests. She urged people to uphold the principles of the Constitution and take a pledge to protect it.
Taking to Twitter, she said, “On Republic Day, let us pledge to protect our Constitution and uphold the principles of sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, as enshrined in the Preamble.”
Down south in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of the CPI(M), who has been actively opposing the CAA, seemed to have gained a strategic advantage over Governor Arif Mohammed Khan after a standing spat on CAA.
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The Governor, in his Republic Day address, praised the Chief Minister for ‘leading the state to progress and prosperity.’ He lauded the sustainable development agenda of the state and said the state’s progress in gender equality, education and health was worth emulation.
Earlier, the Governor was highly critical of the government for moving the Supreme Court by invoking Article 131 against the CAA. In a speech read out, the Governor said the country was always open to people facing persecution.