As many as 48 members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s minority cell in Bhopal have quit the party over the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens, The Hindu reported on Sunday. The members who have quit include Bhopal district minority cell vice president Adil Khan and state media chief Javed Baig.
“Have you ever seen a government passing a law in Parliament, and then going from door to door seeking support for it?” asked Khan. “This shows the party is aware it has committed a wrong. The Act and the NRC is a lethal combination. Only we know how we went to each Muslim home during elections to canvass for votes. Yet we have to take a stand now. People don’t have enough to eat, how can you expect them to produce documents to prove citizenship?”
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 48 members handed in a joint resignation letter on Saturday to the BJP’s state minority cell chief. “The party once followed principles of Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, didn’t indulge in discrimination and took everyone along, including minorities,” they wrote in the letter, according to The Hindu. “But in the past few years, it has been hijacked by two-three big names and started working against a particular community... The spirit of the Constitution is being killed now.”
They also accused the party’s senior leadership of not paying heed to complaints of offensive remarks against a community. The former members also complained of discrimination and alleged that they were not involved in the party’s door-to-door campaign on the contentious law.
Abdul Qureshi, who has spent over 40 years in the BJP, said the party’s agenda of creating a Hindu rashtra, or nation, was out in open now. “Back then, at least they used to hear us out,” he said. “Now, the party has lost its ideology.”
The BJP, however, rejected the allegations. “Community leaders and communists who work against the interest of the country have misled our workers, who don’t understand the issue properly,” Gopal Bhargava told The Hindu. He also denied the allegations of discrimination. “Several of them [minority leaders] were with me during the [CAA awareness] drive in Agar Malwa district,” he claimed.