Janata Dal (United) leader and political strategist Prashant Kishor told NDTV on Thursday that though the intent of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens may be good, it will the poor who will suffer the most when these laws are implemented. The Janata Dal (United) is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the party had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in both House of Parliament.
Kishor said that most poor Indians will not have the documents to prove their citizenship. “It will be a huge logistical nightmare,” he added. “This will result in loss of wages, harassment, bribery.”
“We as a democracy have a right to protest...as long as it is non-violent,” Kishor said. “On the issue of violence, we should be fair on both sides. If we are saying that protestors do not have the right to do violence...then the police or the state also cannot use violent measures.”
He said some protestors at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi who committed violent actions should be taken to task. But the violence committed by the police after entering the university should also not be excused, he added.
Kishor said that only an Aadhaar card and a voter identity card will not be enough to prove citizenship under the National Register of Citizens. He said many people will either not have these documents or will be able to procure it only after much difficulty. “Suppose there are 3% people in India who are illegal residents,” Kishor said. “The government must find an intelligent way to identify them and throw them out...rather than making 100% people suffer. If we do the NRC today, for the next many years, the whole country will be just giving up to prove what has already been proved.”
Kishor, who opposed the Janata Dal (United) voting in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament last week, said he does not know why Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar backs it. However, he added that he has spoken to Kumar, who assured him that he will issue a statement on the matter.
Kishor said it was not just the Citizenship Amendment Act, but the combination of the Act with the National Register of Citizens that was completely unacceptable. “Once you combine it with NRC, it becomes discriminatory not only on the basis of religion but also on the basis of class,” he said. “You are making all those who are poor go through unimaginable suffering.”
He said that the purpose of raising his voice against the Citizenship Amendment Act was to show that not everybody in the Janata Dal (United) back the Act. Kishor said that at least, even if the Citizenship Amendment Act is implemented, the National Register of Citizens would not. Kishor claimed that Kumar and the Janata Dal (United) are against implementing the National Register of Citizens.
‘CAA, NRC cannot be implemented without use of state machinery’
The political strategist told the Hindustan Times that the BJP is within its democratic rights to implement both the Act and the National Register of Citizens as it is part of their election manifestos. However, the BJP got only 39% of the vote in the Lok Sabha elections, he added. “But 61% people did not vote for that agenda. Who represents those 61% people? The combined Opposition.” Kishor said. “So as much as BJP has the right to push their agenda, this combined opposition has the equal right.”
He said that 16 states have non-BJP chief ministers, and neither the Citizenship Amendment Act nor the National Register of Citizens can be implemented without the use of the state machinery. Kishor wondered whether the Centre would then take states to court, or invoke Article 356 dismissing the state government which does not fall in line.
Apart from Kishor, Janata Dal (United) leader Pavan Varma has also publicly opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Nitish Kumar assures minorities of safety
Later on Thursday, Nitish Kumar assured minorities that they were safe in Bihar under his government, the Hindustan Times reported. “I take the guarantee that minority communities cannot be ignored and no wrong can happen to them as long as we are at the helm,” he said. Kumar criticised the Opposition, who he said were trying to create confusion in the minds of minorities.
Bihar had been affected by a protest called by Left parties on Thursday. In many parts of the country too, there were massive demonstrations, turning violent in some places. At least two people died in Mangaluru in Karnataka during clashes with the police, while one person died in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to persecuted minorities of six religions – excluding Islam – from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has been decried as anti-Muslim, and protestors from North Eastern states have alleged that the Act will erode their ethnic identities. The Congress, the Trinamool Congress and most other Opposition parties are against the Act.