Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday joined BJP’s spirited response to the aggressive anti-CAA agitation by seeking to uncouple the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) with changes in the Citizenship Act, and launched a ferocious attack on Congress and its allies for inflaming passions by spreading “rumours and lies”.
Addressing a massive gathering to kick off BJP’s campaign for the forthcoming assembly polls in Delhi, PM Modi sought to allay fears that his government would implement NRC to derecognise Muslims as citizens and evict them.
Calling the allegation an “evil lie” being spread to cause havoc in the country, the PM said, “NRC has not been brought before Parliament. It has not been discussed in the cabinet. I can assure 130 crore Indians that since 2014, when our government was formed, the term NRC has not figured in any discussion in the government.
Modi’s speech at once marked an outreach to Muslims, a defence of CAA and an onslaught on the urban educated elite, whom he derided as “urban Naxals”.
Modi didn’t rule out NRC. He drew a distinction between “refugees” who came to India because of religious persecution in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries and “infiltrators”. There were enough hints in his 100-minute speech that the promise of non-discrimination was meant only for Indian Muslims “whose ancestors were the offspring of mother India”.
Protests against CAA engineered by rivals: PM Modi
Yet, his remarks seemed to be at variance with home minister Amit Shah’s recent assertion in Parliament about the imminence of a countrywide NRC.
NRC and CAA constituted a huge chunk of the speech, another trademark oratorical performance that covered all the bases. Even as the PM dwelt on NRC, the core ingredient of Muslim restiveness, he struck a defiant note on the controversial changes in the Citizenship Act. He said CAA was meant to fulfil the promise made by Gandhiji and others to provide shelter to Hindus and Sikhs who faced religious persecution in Pakistan.
“I want to ask Congress and their allies what have they got against those who have escaped to India to save their faith and their women and daughters from being forcibly abducted and converted and married against their will?” he asked.
Modi mocked the declarations of opposition CMs that they would not implement CAA by saying they were not empowered to block its implementation. He debunked as false propaganda the claim of some opposition parties that the new Citizenship Act would open the floodgates for refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Significantly, the PM made a specific mention of Dalit leaders like Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad for opposing CAA. “I pity them. I wish they had taken care to realise that many of the beneficiaries are Dalits who came here because of the discrimination they had to endure. It is a pity that an opportunity to shame Pakistan globally for its treatment of religious minorities has been frittered away for partisan political expediency,” he said.