Three days after the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution demanding scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that will provide citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote letters Friday to 11 non-BJP Chief Ministers, including Nitish Kumar of Bihar who heads a government with the BJP as partner, urging them to consider similar steps against the citizenship law and the National Population Register exercise.
Coming out in support of the Kerala Assembly resolution, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in an open letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who had advised states opposed to CAA to seek better legal advice, raised security concerns saying the CAA could “be misused for infiltration into our country, particularly in the border states, converting this misguided legislation into a national security threat”.
In Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the “entire country should reject” the law because it will affect “both Hindus and Muslims” in equal measure. Addressing a town hall gathering, he said the discourse of the country should primarily be about generating employment, not “throwing people out for failing to produce birth proof”.
Kejriwal had a different take though on a state Assembly passing a resolution against the CAA. Asked if his government would get a resolution against the law passed in the Delhi Assembly, he said such resolutions have no meaning since only Parliament can take a call on its fate.
“Will the Bill be stalled? Why are you latching on to formalities? Why don’t you start the right debate? We will pass twenty resolutions, tell us if that helps. Parliament will have to pass. Let Kerala do what it wants. What has it got to do with us,” he said.
Underlining the “need to stand united”, Vijayan sent letters to the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Puducherry, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
“Apprehensions have risen among large sections of our society consequent to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. The need of the hour is unity among all Indians to protect and preserve our cherished values of democracy and secularism. People from various cross-sections of the society, irrespective of any differences they might have, need to stand united in preserving the basic tenets of our polity which form the cornerstone of Indian democracy,” his letter stated.
He pointed to the Kerala government’s decision to suspend all activities of the NPR in the state and for taking up a resolution that ultimately received support from all MLAs except O Rajagopal, the lone BJP legislator.
“States which have the opinion that CAA should be repealed can also consider similar steps so that it will be an eye-opener to the proponents of the CAA and NRC,” Vijayan said.
In his letter to the Union Law Minister, Captain Amarinder said the Kerala Assembly’s resolution represented the will and wisdom of the people, as spoken through their elected representatives. “Such MLAs represent the voice of the people at large,” he said, adding that it was not only a matter of Parliamentary privilege but the Constitutional duty of those representatives to make known such views.
Declaring that as heads of responsible state governments “we are neither naive nor misguided”, the Chief Minister said laws could not be forcibly imposed on citizens, and like all powers, even Parliamentary power was coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.
By insisting that only Parliament, under Article 245, had the legislative power to pass laws as regards citizenship, and not the state governments, he said the Law Minister had missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala Assembly. “It has not passed any citizenship law. It urges the Government of India (through Parliament where it now has a majority) to amend the CAA,” he pointed out.
“Surely, you, both as Minister of Law as well as a lawyer, know that the resolution is rightly directed, as it is Parliament which must amend/repeal such law based on a proposal/Bill mooted by the Government of India,” he said.
“Surely (and again as a lawyer yourself) you would be alive to the raging debate that the CAA fails the test of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees to all persons equality before law and equal protection of laws, irrespective of their religion,” he said.
If the CAA seeks to protect religious persecution, then such protection should be available to persons of all religious minorities, from all countries where people may face religious persecution, the Chief Minister said, citing the example of Uganda as a country from where Hindus were ousted during the Idi Amin regime.
Pointing to the sensitive border location of Punjab, he expressed another concern. “Since the CAA has no requirement of being of Indian origin or having to prove any such origins, this means that any person claiming to be of the six religions could simply apply in terms of the amended law, prove entry on/before the cut-off date and be eligible for citizenship. This could in fact be misused the for infiltration into our country, particularly in the border states, converting this misguided legislation into a national security threat,” he said.