Opposition parties held a meeting in New Delhi on Monday to discuss the political situation in the country, especially in the backdrop of the economic downturn and the amended Citizenship Act. Interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi presided over the gathering.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja were at the meeting along with Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Ahmed Patel. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress founder Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati were among those who skipped the event. The AAP and Shiv Sena were reportedly not invited, according to NDTV.
Congress’ ally in Tamil Nadu Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also stayed away from the meeting, News18 reported.
The main agenda of the meeting was to come up with strategies to counter the government on the Citizenship Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.
“The government may have notified it [CAA], but we stick to our stand that the legislation must be withdrawn. And we stand firm on the issue,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told the Hindustan Times.
Mayawati said in a tweet on Monday morning that she will boycott the meeting and cited the political situation in Rajasthan as the reason. All six of her MLAs in Rajasthan joined the Congress in September. “In such a situation, the BSP attending the meeting called by the opposition today under the leadership of the Congress will be demoralising to the party’s workers in Rajasthan,” she said in a tweet. “That’s why the BSP will not attend this meeting.”
“The BSP is against CAA/NRC etc,” she added. “We again appeal to the central government to withdraw this divisive and unconstitutional law. At the same time, the politicisation of students in JNU and other educational institutions is very unfortunate.”
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 13, 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. At least 26 people died in protests against the citizenship law. Of these, 19 died in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.
The population register is linked to the Census, due in 2021, and is a list of “usual residents” in the country. However, it has also been linked to the NRC – a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants and differentiate them from citizens of India. The Census of India website has described the NPR as “the first step towards the creation of a NRC”.