Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to confront the critics of the Citizenship Amendment Act. In a series of tweets, the former Union minister claimed that the only way to clear the public’s doubts on the amended law was to televise a discussion between the prime minister and his critics.
“[The] prime minister talks from high platforms to silent audiences and does not take questions,” Chidambaram said. “We talk through the media and are willing to take questions from media persons. [The] prime minister is not talking to his critics. The critics do not have an opportunity to talk to the prime minister.”
Modi said that the amended Act was meant to provide citizenship and not take it away, the Congress leader said. However, many believe that the CAA clubbed with the National Population Register or National Register of Citizens will declare several people as “non-citizens”, he noted.
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”.
“The only way out is for the prime minister to select five of his most articulate critics and have a televised question and answer session with them,” Chidambaram said. “Let the people listen to the discussion and reach their conclusions on CAA. I sincerely hope [the] prime minister will respond favourably to this suggestion.”
During an address in Kolkata on Sunday, Modi said accused Opposition parties of spreading misinformation about the Citizenship Amendment Act. He claimed that political parties were not ready to understand the amended law and were misleading citizens about it. On the same day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah challenged Opposition leaders to prove that the law can take away anyone’s citizenship.
Leaders of the Opposition parties will hold a meeting in New Delhi on Monday to discuss the political situation in the country amid an economic slowdown and protests against the amended Citizenship Act.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, notified on January 10, 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 and sparked protests for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people died in protests against the legislation last month.