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Nirmala: States’ opposition to CAA unconstitutional

January 20, 2020 05:24 AM

COURTESY HT JAN 20
States’ opposition to CAA unconstitutional: Nirmala
MC Rajan

letters@hindustantimes.com

Chennai : The stand taken by some states that they will not implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, is unconstitutional, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Sunday, while also rejecting allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was averse to welcoming Muslims into the country.

Speaking at an event in Chennai, Sitharaman said the government was ready to hold talks with those “having any apprehension that this law would deprive them of their citizenship”. She reiterated that the aim of the newly amended law, which has sparked nationwide protests, was to provide citizenship, not to snatch it away.

“CAA is not against the Muslims. None of the Muslims in the country will be affected by CAA,” Sitharaman told the event organised by Chennai Citizen’s Forum as part of the BJP’s nationwide campaign in support of the Act.“Those who are opposing the CAA have remained silent about the condition in the refugee camps,” she said.

CAA, which fast-tracks the citizenship process for refugees of Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Jain and Buddhist faiths who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015, got Parliament’s approval in December, during the winter.

Sitharaman said that in the last six years, a total of 2,838 people from Pakistan, 914 from Afghanistan and 172 from Bangladesh received Indian citizenship. This included 566 Muslims.

“This data is for those who comment that the government has not given citizenship for Muslims. For example, Adnan Sami; he is a singer of prominence. He received citizenship in 2016 when the same Prime Minister was there then,” she said, also pointing to Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who has been given residence permit since 2004.

“Besides, 461,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka during the period 1964-2008 have received citizenship,” she said.

Sitharaman also pointed out that the matters related to citizenship were the Centre’s prerogative and that states must implement laws enacted by Parliament. “A state assembly has passed a resolution against CAA. It is like making a political statement. We can understand that. But saying they will not implement it, then it is against the law. It is unconstitutional to say that,” she said.

Several Opposition-ruled states have opposed CAA and NRC, and Kerala and Punjab assemblies have passed resolutions against the controversial citizenship law.

Sitharaman added that CAA was a sensitive issue and needed to be handled carefully, and that there was no need to link it to National Register of Citizens (NRC) or National Population Register (NPR), a process of enumeration of Indians to be undertaken simultaneously with the 2021 census.

“NPR is taken every 10 years, and it was not brought in by Modi government in 2010. It was by the then home minister and senior leaders (of Congress),” she said. They had then spoken in support of NPR, but, were opposing it now, Sitharaman said.

Opponents of CAA say the act is unconstitutional because it links faith to citizenship in a secular country and discriminatory because it leaves out Muslims.

Critics allege if an all-India NRC and CAA are simultaneously implemented, it would affect Muslims without the requisite paperwork in a country where most people have very poor paperwork.

Opposition parties also allege that the government is trying to get NRC done covertly through NPR, a charge repeatedly rejected by the Centre.

Reacting to Sitharaman’s remarks, Sivaganga Lok Sabha member and Congress leader Karti Chidambaram said, “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...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.”

In Delhi, Congress’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, said in a statement CAA was an attack on India’s Constitution and the people’s movement against the act shall continue “courageously and fearlessly”.

“Let the BJP government and its governors not forget that India is a Union of states. As per the established parliamentary practice, states can disagree with the Union and challenge the same by way of their constitutional right under Article 131 of the Constitution,” Surjewala said.

“Until the (CAA) issue is resolved on a petition moved under Article 131, states cannot be forced to implement an unconstitutional law like the CAA,” Surjewala said, referring to the Kerala government moving the Supreme Court to challenge the legislation

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