Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday hit out at Army chief Bipin Rawat for his comments on students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh, The Hindu reported.

Commenting on the violence during the protests, Rawat said at an event in Delhi on Thursday: “As we are witnessing in large number of universities and colleges, students the way they are leading masses and crowds to carry out arson and violence in cities and towns. This is not leadership.” He added that true leaders lead people in the right direction.

This led to outrage from the Opposition, many of whom reminded Rawat of the limits of his office. But Union minister and former Army chief VK Singh defended Rawat, asking the Opposition not to politicise everything.

Inaugurating the “Save India Save Constitution” march organised by the Congress in Thiruvananthapuram, Chidambaram said it was a disgrace that the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre was now taking the help of the Army and state police chiefs to oppose students who had protested against the Act in a democratic manner.

“Let me appeal to General Rawat,” Chidambaram said. “You head the Army and mind your business. What politicians will do, politicians will do. It is not the business of the Army to tell politicians what we should do, just as it is not our business to tell you how to fight a war.”

Chidambaram also alleged that the BJP wants to get rid of the secular character of the Constitution, but is unable to do so because it lacks a two-third majority in the Lok Sabha. Hence, Chidambaram alleged, the BJP is trying to amend the Constitution through the backdoor by muscling anti-Muslim legislation such as the Citizenship Amendment Act through Parliament without a proper debate.

The former defence minister added that the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are “Siamese twins”. “If NRC is implemented first in Assam, it will relegate 19 lakh persons, including Hindus and Muslims to the status of illegal aliens,” Chidambaram said. “Then the CAA will come into play. If you are a Hindu, you are welcome to stay in India and avail yourself of citizenship. If you are a naturalised Muslim, the CAA will show you the door as an illegal infiltrator.”

Chidambaram claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act is a precursor to the Centre’s aim of resurrecting the regressive Laws of Manu and applying them in India. He asserted that the divisive politics of the BJP will take India back to the Dark Ages.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered India by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

At least 25 people have been killed in nationwide protests against the Act in the past three weeks, with 18 dying in Uttar Pradesh alone.

On the other hand, the stated aim of the National Register of Citizens is to distinguish undocumented migrants living in India from genuine Indian citizens. When it was carried out in Assam earlier this year, 19 lakh people, or 6% of Assam’s population, was excluded.