Despite its massive strength in Parliament, the BJP is having a trying time handling the nationwide protests that have sprung up over the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019.
Although the agitation seems sudden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his home minister Amit Shah and the party at large have been at pains to separate CAA and NRC. The BJP has not only asserted that the two are linked, but stated in no uncertain terms that it is committed to expand the NRC beyond the confines of Assam where it was implemented.
The intensity with which the BJP sought to get the Citizenship Act amended in its last term was clearly indicative of its determination to get it passed at any cost. The party manifesto ahead of the Lok Sabha election this year re-established that the party was in no mood to give up.
BJP manifesto for Lok Sabha Election said it all
In their manifesto for the Lok Sabha election 2019, BJP made their intention public. "We are committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution. We will make all efforts to clarify the issues to the sections of population from the Northeastern states who have expressed apprehensions regarding the legislation. We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India," it said.
Citizenship Amendment Bill remained a key issue for Narendra Modi ahead of Lok Sabha polls
On 22 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a rally at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi said, "Some are saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act is against the interest of the poor. This Act will be applicable to those people who have been staying in India for years. No new refugee will benefit from this law. These are those people, who are mostly Dalits, who were kept in Pakistan as bonded labourers."
"I want to say to those who are unleashing an atmosphere of unrest and fear in many cities that if you want to burn something, burn my effigy, don't harm the poor. What will you get by pelting stones at the police and injuring them?"
This was perhaps a climb down for the government which otherwise sought to crush any opposition to the newly amended Act with an iron hand.
On 4 January this year, while addressing a rally at Silchar in Assam, the prime minister had made his intentions clear on the Citizenship Act.
"Our government is also working to get the Citizen Amendment Bill passed in the Parliament. I assure everyone that no Indian will be left out of the National Register of Citizenship," Modi said in the rally pitching for his government's effort to get the Citizenship Act amended during his first term in office.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls in April and May, the prime minister vouched for an amended Citizenship Act in almost all public rallies.
On 9 February, addressing a rally at Changsari near Guwahati, the prime minister took a potshot at the Congress for spreading misinformation on the Citizenship Amended Act.
"Much misinformation has been spread over the Citizenship Act. Those who wasted so many years of the country are spreading misinformation for their own advantage. It is important to know these people. See the viewpoint of the people sitting in Delhi, sitting in airconditioned rooms, people opposing me in Parliament, they should know the pulse of Assam first," Modi said.
"The BJP is fully committed to safeguarding the language, culture and resources of Assam and the North East. Our effort is to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord as soon as possible. We have also formed a committee for it. I firmly believe that the committee will prepare the report keeping in mind your wish, your welfare and your hopes and aspirations," the prime minister said.
"We need to understand the difference between the people who have come here to take over our resources and land and those who came here facing religious persecutions. The Citizenship Amendment Bill is not related to Asam and the North East alone. These refugees have faith in mother India, praise mother India, dedicated themselves to their religious beliefs and are looking to have shelter in India by saving their lives. Whether they come from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh before 1947 they were all part of India," the prime minister said.
Addressing a rally at Durgapur in West Bengal on 3 April, Modi targetted both Trinamool Congress and the Congress in a vicious attack over the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
"For their lust for power, Congress and the Trinamool Congress, which is an offshoot of the Congress, will go to the extent of supporting terrorists and separatists. This is the reason for which both the parties oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill," the prime minister said.
Accusing the Opposition of indulging in "vote bank politics" at Buniadpur in West Bengal on 20 April, Modi said it was "necessary to correct a historical mistake" as the Opposition treated our own people as strangers. "It is our resolve to get the Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Parliament," the prime minister said.
On 23 April at Asansol in West Bengal, Modi made his intentions clear once again to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament.
"On 23 May when the results of the Lok Sabha election will come out and the Modi government will take charge for the second time, full efforts will be made to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament," he said.
In another rally at Barrackpore near Kolkata, the prime minister repeated his resolve to amend the Citizenship Act.
"I am fully aware of the condition of the people who work in the factories here. People who have faith in mother India need not worry at all. After the results are out on 23 May, the Modi government will use all its strength to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament so that you can get the benefit of all the government schemes on time," he said.
Repeating his resolve again on 6 May at Tamluk in West Bengal, Modi said that India will grant citizenship to lakhs of those who faced persecution in their parent countries for performing pujas as per their religious beliefs.
In no uncertain terms, the prime minister announced on Mamata Banerjee's turf in Kolkata on 15 May that people who look up to India as their sole hope will granted citizenship.
Jharkhand polls offered a perfect platform for Narendra to defend Citizenship Amendment Act
Taken aback by the intensity of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Modi sought to allay fears of the people in the North East regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act when he addressed a rally at Dhanbad in Jharkhand on 12 December.
"I assure every state of the East and North East. The traditions, culture, language, etc, of Assam and other states, will not be affected at all," he said trying to assure the people of the North East, particularly Assam.
The prime minister caused quite a stir at Dumka in Jharkhand when he said that the arsonists can be identified from their clothes as being close to the Congress.
From the moment the amendment to the Citizenship Act started grabbing headlines, Modi constantly targetted the Congress assuming the role of preserver and destroyer, respectively.
"Congress and its allies are instigating Muslims for political purpose and are behind the unrest and arson in parts of the country," the prime minister said at a rally at Barhait in Jharkhand.
Amit Shah defends Citizenship Amendment Act
On 1 May, Union home minister Amit Shah even linked the Citizenship Amendment Act (then Bill) with the nationwide NRC.
"First we will pass the Citizenship Amendment bill and ensure that all the refugees from the neighbouring nations get Indian citizenship. After that NRC will be made and we will detect and deport every infiltrator from our motherland," Shah said during a campaign for the Lok Sabha election at Bongaon, West Bengal on 1 May.
सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऑर्डर के तहत असम में NRC की प्रक्रिया हाथ में ली गई थी।
NRC की प्रक्रिया जब पूरे देश में होगी, तो असम में भी ये फिर से की जाएगी।
किसी भी धर्म के लोगों को डरने की जरूरत नहीं है।
सारे लोगों को NRC के अंदर समाहित करने की व्यवस्था है: श्री अमित शाह, राज्य सभा में pic.twitter.com/eJ3YIcPWFT
— BJP (@BJP4India) November 20, 2019
Attempting to drive home the point that the Citizenship Amendment Act is not an anti-Muslim law, Shah told Aaj Tak on 17 December, "In five years the Narendra Modi government granted citizenship to 600 Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Citizenship law was made many times in the country. Citizenship law was made for the 6 lakh Sri Lankan Tamils who were given Indian citizenship. Right now we are solving the problems of those religiously persecuted minorities."
"There is no way the Citizenship Amendment Act will be withdrawn. We believe that lakhs and crores of people have sought refuge in India to protect their religious beliefs.
Speaking to Times Now, Shah even challenged those who are opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act.
"Tell the people of our country that we should welcome the Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. If you can't then don't oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act. We believe that we should grant citizenship to those lakhs and crores facing religious persecution despite the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement. This situation would not have arrived had the Congress party not allowed Partition of the country on religious grounds," the home minister said.
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Updated Date: Dec 25, 2019 19:19:37 IST