Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said on Wednesday that minorities, including Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, do not have any other country to go to, and therefore India must provide them shelter, the Hindustan Times reported.

“If minorities including Hindus and Sikhs don’t come to India, where would they go?” Reddy asked at an event in Varanasi. “Italy will not accept Hindus. Italy will not accept Sikhs. They are poor. They can’t go there.” This was a jibe at the Congress, whose Interim President Sonia Gandhi is of Italian origin.

Reddy said that even Congress leaders like former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had talked about it. He added that the population of Hindus and Sikhs declined in Pakistan because the country failed to protect its minorities.

“Citizenship Amendment Act is not against anyone,” Reddy asserted. “It would not affect the citizenship of any Indian. I want to assure all the Indian Muslims, all Christians, Sikhs and other minorities that the CAA is not against them.” The minister claimed that it was “inappropriate” to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act because it has been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Reddy accused the Congress and the Samajwadi Party of misleading the people about the Act, which he claimed was like “betraying the country”. He also wondered why former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav did not issue any appeals for peace when violent protests were being carried out against the Act.

At least 26 people have been killed in protests against the Act, including 19 in Uttar Pradesh itself.

The minister added that the National Population Register was introduced by the Congress and is only related to the Census. He added that the NPR and Census do not require the citizens to submit any document.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved 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 the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

On the other hand, the Union Cabinet on December 24 approved a proposal to provide funds for the NPR to the tune of Rs 3,900 crore. The register is described by the Census of India as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”, which is a proposed exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. On December 30, Yadav had vowed not to fill up the NPR form.