Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan speaks to The Indian Express about Kerala’s protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). Excerpts from the interview:
The Prime Minister on Thursday said the protests against the CAA are a road to anarchy, as the protest marches are against a law duly passed and notified by Parliament. What do you have to say about it?
It is high time that the Prime Minister realises the genuineness behind the protests against the CAA and the NRC. Large chunks of population, irrespective of any religious and political affinities, have come out against the CAA and their concerns need to be addressed. Any democratic government would have engaged with the protesters. Even state governments, including Kerala, have expressed their concerns over it, but there has been no move from the Centre to have any meaningful dialogue on this. On the other hand the Prime Minister and his colleagues are trying to tarnish the agitation by depicting them to be religious-centric. I hope that the Prime Minister looks up Kerala, where people from different walks of life, cutting across social, political and religious beliefs, have come out unanimously to resist the anti-constitutional amendment and proposals. We had given a call to all secular and democratic organisations to join the protests and the support has been resounding. We have been absolutely clear not to associate with any organisation which does not have secular and democratic credentials. The government of India should realise the fact that there were spontaneous protests where a large number of university students came out to agitate against the amendments that violates the basic tenets of the Constitution. Our youngsters have been always at the forefront to resist such moves. The Prime Minister may recollect even during Emergency, university campuses were the centres of protests against the authoritarianism.
Our students would be naturally concerned as they are convinced that the secular democratic framework of the country has to be protected at any cost. The agitation that sprung up in different places were peaceful. However, there were heinous attempts to crush them. Fact-finding teams comprising of respected persons which toured Uttar Pradesh have given a detailed report regarding the atrocities committed on people who were protesting peacefully. Ruling party at the centre always used to communalise anything and everything and their only intention is to ensure religious polarisation in the country. We all have seen how they have campaigned in Delhi election where they had tried their level best to create communal wedge. A party that rules the nation should not be stooping to that level spreading canards.
For states who have objections against the NPR, the Prime Minister said those who are opposing it are anti-poor with vote-bank politics and vested interests in mind. Your comment?
We have been steadfast in our opposition to the CAA. We have made our stand very clear on the floor of both Houses of Parliament. Our contention is that this amendment is untenable and will not stand judicial scrutiny. As a responsible government, we have every right to point out how a decision adversely affects the secular character of the country.
As the Government of India itself many a time stated that the whole process of NPR, CAA and NRC are inter-linked, it would be a futile attempt to de-link them now. The intent of the ruling party has been very clear. In fact, it is their attempts that are going to create unrest and anarchy in this country.
We earnestly wish that the Modi government should walk the talk… let them get the economy on track and think about the livelihood and well-being of the people. The slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ has to be adhered to, instead of dividing the country and the people.
Do you think the state’s decision to not go for NPR despite the notification would have legal backing?
Since many state governments have expressed their concerns and reservation, the Centre should rethink it. We were the first state Assembly to come out against the divisive agenda and we are happy that many state governments have come forward to adopt a similar stand. As things stand, the Central government should consider this genuine reservation instead of diverting the topic and zeroing down on some religious issues. The protests over CAA, NPR or NRC have nothing to do with any religion. But it is concerning the Constitution of the county and its survival as a secular democratic republic.
What next for Kerala? If the Supreme Court decides in favour of the Centre with respect to CAA, does the state have a plan to proceed?
As the Supreme Court is seized of the matter, I do not want to comment on this. However, the people of Kerala stand as one in opposing this. When a resolution was put to vote, even the lone BJP MLA in the assembly did not oppose it. This emphatically shows the sense of the state.
How about census operations? Will the state ensure security for officials?
We have already made our stand clear that we will do everything required for the smooth conduct of census operation.
The Prime Minister quoted your statement regarding the role of “extremist groups” in the agitations.
I am sorry to say that the Prime Minister has misled the Rajya Sabha about my statement in the Kerala Assembly. What I have said is in the public domain and anyone can go through it. I did say that Kerala has unified itself against the attempts to polarise the nation on communal lines. Kerala has shown the nation how we can peacefully agitate to protect the democratic, secular fabric of the nation. Having said that, I had also cautioned against the attempts of organisations like SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India), which tried to create communal issues and dent peaceful protests. Organisations like the SDPI and the RSS go with different causes, having been effectively doing the same thing – communal polarisation. Kerala is mature enough to see the evil designs of these organisations. As the Chief Minister, it was my bounden responsibility to caution the people against such attempts. Now you can very well understand what I had said and what the Prime Minister has interpreted.
The Congress had alleged that the CPI(M) was trying to take political mileage out of the protests but slapped cases against protesters. There is also criticism that the CPI(M) has taken credit for the protests just to swing Muslim voters towards the party.
Congress has their own issues, at least in Kerala. In the beginning, they had joined us and we created a model for the nation by launching a united protest. Later on, there were internal differences within the Congress, wherein one section led by the PCC president Mullappally Ramachandran came out against the joint protest. We wish all the secular and democratic organisations had jointly held hands on an issue of such national importance. Nevertheless, if the Congress has any issue because of their differences within, they are free to charter their own course. We have been very clear from day one that its not a matter of few votes or electoral benefits but the survival of the nation.
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