As protests against the new citizenship law and the proposed nationwide NRC showed no signs of abating, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday drew a parallel between NRC and demonetisation and said the “poor and vulnerable” will be particularly “hurt” as they will be forced to stand in queues to prove their citizenship and face hardships similar to what they endured three years ago.
Sonia’s remarks were echoed by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who visited a protest at India Gate.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the NRC will unleash hardships on millions of poor and marginalised Indians. “NRC will drag all to government offices and queue up. It’s about documents which most Indians do not have. It will be life in detention camps for so many, especially poor and marginalised sections. Indians now see through this sinister design of the BJP to rule by fear. It can’t succeed,” he said.
Their remarks, invoking demonetisation and the problems people faced then, suggest a subtle but conscious attempt to frame the NRC as an exercise which will affect not just one community but the poor and marginalised sections across the religious divide.
Earlier this week, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had aired similar concerns. “Seventy per cent people in this country do not have documents, the poor do not have documents…the rich will get documents made using money. During demonetisation also…it was said that the rich will suffer. The rich converted their notes giving commission…it was the poor who had suffered,” Kejriwal said.
“There are around 3-4 crore non-Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even if half of them come to our country, who will give them jobs? …Will they be provided housing in Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat, Assam, Tripura. Our kids are not getting jobs in our country…,” he had said.
On Friday, Sonia said “the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is discriminatory and the proposed nationwide NRC will particularly hurt the poor and vulnerable. Like at the time of note-bandi, they will have to stand in line to prove their and their ancestors’ citizenship. People’s apprehensions are real and legitimate.”
Talking on similar lines, Priyanka said both the citizenship law and the NRC are against the poor. “The rich will show the passports….but what will the poor do….the poor mostly will not have documents…and then they will have to stand in queues and face hardships like they had faced during demonetisation…,” she said.
Their remarks also come at a time when NDA allies who backed the new citizenship law in Parliament have changed their tune on the NRC. JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said the NRC will not be implemented in Bihar and LJP chief Chirag Paswan has asserted that the party will not support any legislation which is not in the interest of the common people.
Parties like the BJD, which backed the citizenship legislation in Parliament, too, are wary of the NRC exercise. Party chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has expressed his opposition to NRC.
The Opposition is acutely aware that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has over the years cultivated a pro-poor image with his populist schemes and chants. By framing the NRC as an exercise which will hit the poor, the Opposition seems to be trying to hit the BJP’s soft spot.
Sonia also hit out at the BJP government for its handling of the protests and accused it of using “brute force to suppress dissent”.
“There have been spontaneous protests in the universities, IITs, IIMs and other leading academic institutions throughout the country against the divisive agenda and anti-people policies of the BJP government. In a democracy, people have a right to raise their voice against wrong decisions and policies of the government and register their concerns.”
“Equally, it is the duty of the government to listen to the citizens and address their concerns. The BJP government has shown utter disregard for people’s voices and chosen to use brute force to suppress dissent. This is unacceptable in a democracy,” she said and condemned the actions of the government.