Kerala’s bitter political rivals – CPM and the Congress – and the multi-party coalitions they lead will shed their differences to unite in a protest against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
Leaders of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and ministers in the state cabinet and those of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), will attend a ‘satyagraha’ (protest meeting) outside the martyr’s column in the state capital to send out a message that both coalitions are united in the fight against the citizenship legislation brought by the BJP-led Centre and enacted by Parliament earlier this week. The decision was taken after Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala spoke to the chief minister over the phone.
According to sources, CM Vijayan, Chennithala, cabinet ministers and senior leaders of CPM, Congress and other smaller parties like CPI, Kerala Congress, IUML, RSP and JDS are expected to take part in the day-long protest starting at 10 am. Influential personalities from the arts, culture and literature fields will also mark their presence. The protest will unilaterally demand the withdrawal of the Act and call for the protection of the Constitution.
CM Vijayan was one of the first chief ministers in the country, alongside Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Capt Amarinder Singh of Punjab to declare that Kerala will not enforce the Act.
“The Supreme Court had made it clear on several occasions that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be undermined. So, it is clear that this law will not stand legal scrutiny. When that is evident, there are heinous political aims behind passing anti-Constitutional laws using the arrogance of power…Kerala will not implement it. Discrimination based on religion will not be allowed,” he had said on Thursday.
“What is being staged was a conspiracy to destroy democracy and equality, and establish autocracy and divide the country on the basis of religion. The Union government is trying to realise the dream of (Veer) Savarkar and (M S) Golwalkar with the amendment… It is the offspring of a concerted attempt to sabotage equality and secularism, the basic tenets of the Constitution,” he said.
Vijayan said the CPM-led Left government in Kerala will “question the legality of this black law at all possible venues”. “The Supreme Court had made it clear that secularism is the foundation of the Constitution. With the amended Citizenship Act, the Union government is creating a division based on religion alone,” he said.
Late on Thursday, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, turning it into an Act. The act provides for citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who have arrived in India till December 31, 2014 and faced persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. While the ruling BJP said it is merely providing refuge to members of minority communities facing religious persecution in the three countries, the opposition have alleged that the legislation is ‘discriminatory’ in nature and violates article 14 of the Constitution.