The Punjab Assembly on Friday (January 17) adopted a resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the state government would approach the Supreme Court on the issue. So far, Kerala has been the only state which has moved the top court against the contentious legislation.
Singh said the Centre would have to make the necessary amendments to the CAA if it had to be implemented in Punjab and other states opposing the legislation. “Like Kerala, our government will also approach the Supreme Court on the issue,” he told reporters outside the Assembly on Friday.
The statement comes after the state assembly passed a resolution, moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra on the second day of the two-day special session, urging the central government to repeal the law. The resolution was passed through a voice vote after over three hours of discussion.
While the ruling Congress, the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Lok Insaaf Party supported the resolution, the BJP opposed it. The Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the BJP, sought inclusion of Muslims in the list of communities that could be granted citizenship under the amended law.
“It is divisive and stands for everything opposed to a free and fair democracy, which must enshrine equality for all. Alongside the religion-based discrimination in granting citizenship, it is apprehended that the CAA is also likely to endanger the linguistic and cultural identity of some sections of our people. CAA also envisages cancellation of the registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders, if they violate any law,” the resolution said.
The ideology behind CAA is “inherently discriminatory and as far away as it can be from being a humanitarian measure,” the resolution alleged. “In the backdrop of these facts, it is evident that CAA violates the secular identity of India, which is basic feature of our Constitution; therefore, the House resolves to urge the Government of India to repeal the CAA to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before law for all religious groups in India.”
The Kerala Assembly was the first to pass a resolution against the amended Citizenship Act. Kerala has also moved the Supreme Court against the law.
In response to a question while addressing the media, Singh made it clear that the census in Punjab would be conducted on the old parameters. The new factors added by the Centre for the purpose of the National Population Register (NPR) would not be included, he said.
The SAD demanded inclusion of Muslim in the list of communities that would be granted citizenship under the amended law, but it was disallowed by the Speaker. Its leader Bikram Singh Majithia said, “SAD will be against NRC as common people will be hassled standing in queues to prove their citizenship.”
In the Assembly, Singh said events unfolding now are similar to the ones witnessed in Europe when Adolf Hitler was at the helm in Germany. Participating in the discussion, he slammed the Centre saying, “You want to change secular fabric of this country. It is very sad what is happening now. We want to break brotherhood merely for politics.”
“Clearly, no lessons had been learnt from history,” the chief minister said.
The resolution also urged the central government to put on hold the work on the National Population Register (NPR) till forms/documents associated with it are amended suitably, in order to allay apprehensions that it is a prelude to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and designed to deprive a section of persons from citizenship of India and implement CAA.
Terming the “divisive” Act and NRC as a tragedy, he said, “Where will the poor go and from where will they procure their birth certificates? This is a great tragedy. And I am very sorry to say…I wish I was not here when this is happening to my country where we are going to be in a situation where brotherhood is being broken for politics.”
The chief minister said in the Assembly “what happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now”. “Germans did not speak out then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak out now, so that we don’t regret later,” he asserted, urging the Opposition to read Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to understand the dangers of CAA.
Making an impassioned plea to the Akalis to rise above politics and go by their conscience before deciding on their vote, he said he had never imagined such a tragedy could happen in a secular nation like India, which had more Muslims than Pakistan.
“Where will all those people, who you brand as non-citizens, go? Where will the 18 lakh people declared illegal in Assam go if other countries refuse to take them? Has anyone thought about it? Has Union Home Minister Amit Shah even thought about what has to be done with the so-called illegal people?” asked the chief minister.
“We all have to live together as citizens of secular India in our own interest. Why exclude Muslims? And why have they (Centre) not included Jews in the CAA?” he asked, pointing out that Punjab earlier had a Governor, General JFR Jacob, who was a Jew and fought for the nation in the 1971 war.
“Those responsible for this situation should be ashamed of themselves,” he said and lashed out at the Akalis for supporting the legislation in Parliament and then speaking on it in “different voices to promote their political agenda”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who had migrated to India before December 31, 2014 from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, due to religious persecution in their own country.
(With inputs from agencies)