Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said on Tuesday that he will be the “first person” to not sign the National Register of Citizens if the Centre implements it in the state, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.

“We have a big challenge in front of us with the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre,” Baghel told party workers at the headquarters in Raipur. “Their policies are only to mislead people, to instigate people, to set fire, to cut and divide.” The Congress leader was speaking on the occasion of the completion of one year of his government.

“Today the country is burning. In different states there are fires burning, there is violence,” Baghel said. “There is misbehaviour with students, there is assault on them. There is murder, arson. They are creating an environment of fear in the country. Their only objective is to stay in power.”

Baghel was referring to alleged police action on students in different universities protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, over the last few days. Last week, Parliament passed the contentious Act, that provides citizenship to refugees from six religious communities, except Muslims, escaping persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The chief minister said that people had died due to demonetisation, while the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax had caused businesses to shut shop. Baghel said that while the BJP returned to power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections due to the Balakot air strikes, the party has not yet told people how RDX was found at the spot of the Pulwama attack on February 14, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed.

Baghel said that Assam is “burning”, and its effects are being felt in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh as well. “And [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah says this is the beginning and they will implement NRC,” Baghel said. “If someone doesn’t have land, or someone is old, or isn’t literate, how will they prove they are Indian? And if they can’t prove, where will they send them?”

The Chhattisgarh chief minister said that Mahatma Gandhi had refused to sign the register during British rule in order to defy the colonialists. He was referring to Gandhi’s refusal to sign a register prepared by the Transvaal government in South Africa in 1906, which sought registration of the colony’s Indian and Chinese populations.

“I want to say from this stage that if they implement NRC, I will be the first person not to sign the register,” Baghel said. “Why should I prove I am Indian? This is Gandhiji’s way that he started in South Africa. The Britishers had then started it [the register]. Now the dark-skinned Britishers [BJP] are starting it.”

The National Register of Citizens, which intended to weed out undocumented migrants from genuine Indian citizens living in Assam, was published on August 31. It excluded 19 lakh people, which comprises 6% of Assam’s population.