In his first remarks following the week-long protests against the new citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday distanced his government from a pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said Muslims who are “sons of the soil” have nothing to fear from either the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or NRC.
In a clear departure from the refrain of his ministers and party colleagues, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP working president J P Nadda, Modi said his government had not held any discussions on a pan-India NRC yet.
The Prime Minister also denied that there are any detention centres in the country, saying these were lies being spread by the “Congress, its allies, some educated Naxals and urban Naxals”.
Barely days ago, at his election rally in Jharkhand, he said that those “spreading the fire” could be “identified by their clothes”. On Sunday, Modi said that it was “comforting” to see some protesters holding the national flag.
“Nagrikta sanshodhan kanoon ka virodh karne waalon ke haath mein jab eint-patthar dekhta hun toh mujhe bahut taqleef hoti hai, lekin jab unhi mein se kuchh ke haath mein Tiranga dekhta hun, toh sukoon bhi milta hai ki chalo, Tirange ko toh thaamne lage. Mujhe ummeed hai ki ab jab Tiranga thaam hi liya hai, toh yeh log ab hathiyaar uthane walon, Pakistan prayojit aatankwadi hamle karne walon ke khilaaf bhi aawaz uthayenge. Main tukde-tukde gang se toh visheshkar kehna chahta hun ki jab Tiranga thaam hi liya hai toh mujhe ummeed hai ki aap Naxali hamalon ke khilaaf bhi bolenge, urban Naxaliyon ke khilaaf bhi bolenge,” he said, according to a party release on his speech.
(“While it hurts to see stones in the hand of those opposed to the Citizenship Act, it is comforting to see the Tricolour in some of their hands, that they have started to hold the Tricolour now. I hope that since they are now holding the Tricolour, they will also raise their voices against those taking up the gun, against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. In particular, I hope the tukde-tukde gang will speak out against Naxal attacks and urban Naxals now that they are holding the Tricolour”).
Modi was addressing a rally at Ramlila Maidan, where he launched his party’s campaign ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections next year. “Pehle yeh to dekh lijiye, NRC pe kuch hua bhi kya? Jhooth chalayi jaa rahe hai. Meri sarkar aane ke baad, 2014 se aaj tak, main yeh sachh 130 crore logon ke liye kehna chahata hu, kahi par bhi NRC shabd par koi charcha nahi huyi hai. Koi baat nahin huyi hai (First, see if anything has happened on NRC. Lies are being spread. From the time my government came in 2014 till today, I want to tell this truth to 130 crore people of this country, that there has been no discussion on NRC. No talk at all),” he said.
Seeking to reassure the Muslim community, he said: “Jo Hindustan ki mitti ke musalman hai, jinke purkhe Ma Bharati ki santaan hai… un par nagarikta kanoon aur NRC, dono ka koi lena dena nahin hai. Koi desh ke musalmanon ko na detention centre mein bheja ja raha hai, na Hindustan main koi detention centre hai. Yeh safed jhooth hain, yeh badiraade vaala khel hai, ye naapaak khel hai (Both the citizenship law and NRC don’t have any implications for Muslims who are sons of India’s soil, whose forefathers are sons of Mother India. No one is sending Muslims of this country to detention centres, nor is there any detention centre in India. This is a clear lie, it is a game with wrong intentions, a nefarious game).”
“The Congress, its allies, and some educated Naxals in cities and urban Naxals are spreading rumours that all Muslims will be sent to detention centres… Even the educated are asking what’s this detention centre… What kind of lie (is this)…,” he said.
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In what is being seen as a justification for a pan-India NRC, he said infiltrators never “reveal” themselves, unlike refugees who never “hide” their identities. Saying that discussions on NRC were being held even before the BJP came to power, he said it has been implemented only in Assam so far following the Supreme Court’s order.
Defending the contentious citizenship law, Modi said it was about giving rights to persecuted minorities from neighboring countries, not about snatching away anybody’s rights. In a scathing attack on the Opposition, including the Congress, TMC, AAP and Left parties, he accused them of “spreading false and fake news with wrong intentions” that would “damage the country”.
Modi said that during the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, Parliament had missed an opportunity to expose Pakistan for its persecution of minorities and human rights violations because of the Opposition’s “love for selfish political interests”.
In his almost 100-minute address, meant to highlight the central government’s decision to legalise 1,731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi, Modi spent considerable time on reassuring Muslims, asking why he would pass a legislation to take away their rights.
Beginning his speech by making the crowd chant “Vividhta mein ekta, Bharat ki visheshta’ (Unity in diversity is India’s specialty)”, the Prime Minister criticised the violence during the recent protests against the new citizenship law. He targeted Opposition parties for not appealing for peace, saying their “silence” showed their indirect support for vandalism. He asked his rivals to burn his effigy if they wished, but to refrain from targeting other private and public properties.
Praising the police forces, which have faced criticism from some quarters for allegedly using excessive force against students and protesters in some places, the Prime Minister noted that over 33,000 police personnel had sacrificed their lives in the line of duty since independence.
Questioning Opposition Chief Ministers who have announced that their states will not implement the new citizenship law, Modi asked whether they were aware of the Indian Constitution and the law of the land.
He quoted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s reported statements in support of granting citizenship rights to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, and asserted that his government had done what was promised by the Congress when in power. He said the Congress had not been able to fulfill its promise due to vote-bank politics.
Modi targeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for “changing” her stand due to “vote-bank politics”. “Didi, what has happened to you? Why have you changed and why are you spreading rumours? Elections and power come and go, why are you so scared? Have faith in the people of Bengal, Mamata didi reached the UN (United Nations) from Kolkata. A few years ago, she used to plead in Parliament to stop Bangladeshi infiltrators and help the persecuted refugees from there,” he said.
The Prime Minister concluded by talking about his attempts to improve India’s ties with Islamic countries, citing results like Indian prisoners being freed and an increase in the Haj quota.