Amid a debate over the implementation of the amended Citizenship Act, the Congress on Sunday said states have the right to challenge the Centre and cannot be “forced” to implement the “unconstitutional law” till the petition in the Supreme Court is decided.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a statement that the CAA is an attack on India’s Constitution and the people’s movement against the act shall continue “courageously and fearlessly”.
The Congress’ assertion comes a day after senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said there is no way a state can deny the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) when it is already passed by Parliament.
He, however, later asserted that every state assembly has the constitutional right to pass a resolution and seek the amended Citizenship Act’s withdrawal, but if the law is declared constitutional by the Supreme Court then it will be problematic to oppose it.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have become living symbols of ‘sectarianism, bigotry and fanaticism’ using the instrument of state to attack India’s ethos and its Constitution,” Surjewala alleged.
He accused Modi and Shah of using the CAA as a “manipulative smoke-screen” to “divide and rule”.
Repeated statements being made by the home minister and governors “forcing” the states to implement the CAA are itself preposterous and go against the very concept of ‘constitutional federalism’, Surjewala said.
His remarks come at a time when a tussle is going on between the Kerala government and state’s governor Arif Mohammad Khan over the Left dispensation approaching the Supreme Court against the CAA.
“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.
In the past, many states such as Karnataka, Bihar and Rajasthan have approached the Supreme Court under Article 131 to resolve disputes with the Union of India on a range of issues, he 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 CAA and seeking to declare it as violative of the principles of equality, freedom and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.
Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) need to understand that the Constitution is not a “jumla” to be discarded at will, he said.
The Constitution is “our biggest ‘dharma’ of ‘raaj’, ‘neeti’ and ‘karma’, he said.
The inherently “divisive” CAA is an attack on India’s Constitution, its poor, Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes and the minorities, Surjewala alleged.
Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah are using CAA as a “manipulative smoke screen” to “divide and rule” in order to hide their unpardonable failing of India’s economy, insurmountable unemployment and shocking suicides of the youth as a result thereof, he alleged.
“?To lie and to mislead is ‘raaj dharma’ for PM Modi and the BJP. Time has come to expose the conspiracy of ‘lies and deceit’ of the rulers against people of India,” he said.
The Congress seeks an opportunity of the Citizenship of India to all Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, Muslims and others, irrespective of nationality, country of origin, place of residence, ethnicity or religion, Surjewala asserted.
On the other hand, the “illegal and unconstitutional” CAA, in its present form, seeks to exclude Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Muslims and others based on the country of origin, country of residence and religion, he said.
He also posed several questions to the prime minister and the home minister, asking why are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Muslims of Sri Lanka, Tibet (China) and Myanmar (the three bordering countries) being excluded from being given Indian citizenship.
“Why are Hindus or other communities of Nepal and Bhutan being denied India’s Citizenship under the present CAA?” he asked.
Surjewala also asked if it was correct that there are only 33,313 persons belonging to the minority communities (Hindus 25,447, Sikh 5,807, Christians 55, Buddhists 2, Parsis 2), who will benefit from the present CAA.
“If the CAA is not unconstitutional, why are the BJP’s own allies AASU, Akali Dal, DMK, NPF and others opposing the CAA? Why is the BJP’s own Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal opposing the CAA?” he asked.
“?Why is the BJP’s North-East Incharge Hemanta Biswa Sarma rejecting the CAA by claiming that ‘religious persecution’ will not be a ground for grant of citizenship,” Surjewala asked.
This exposes the BJP’s own doublespeak and fallibility of its divisive agenda, he claimed.
“Let the BJP government, PM and the HM remember that the Indian National Congress has always stood up in challenge against draconian laws, whether brought by the British or by the current dispensation,” he said.