Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said on Sunday that states where the party is in power may soon bring in resolutions against the amendments to the Citizenship Act.
So far, Left-ruled Kerala and Congress-led Punjab have passed resolutions in their state Assemblies demanding the withdrawal of the law. Other states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Bihar, where NDA ally Janata Dal (United) is in power, have also said they won’t implement the amendments or the proposed National Register of Citizens or the National Population Register. Kerala has also challenged the validity of CAA in the Supreme Court.
“After Punjab, we are thinking about bringing resolution against Citizenship Amendment Act in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,” Patel said, according to NDTV. “It would be a clear message to the Central government to reconsider the Act.”
Senior Congress leaders Kapil Sibal, Salman Khurshid and Jairam Ramesh had over the weekend said that it would be “constitutionally difficult” or problematic if state governments do not follow laws passed by Parliament. Ramesh had also wondered if the resolutions will stand judicial scrutiny.
But on Sunday, the Congress reiterated that states have the right to disagree with the Centre over laws and cannot be forced to implement them, according to NDTV. “Let the BJP government and its governors not forget that India is a Union of states,” a statement issued by Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. “As per the established parliamentary practice, states can disagree with the Union and challenge the same by way of their constitutional right under Article 131.”
“Until the issue is resolved... states cannot be forced to implement an unconstitutional law like the CAA,” the Congress leader said, adding that statements by Union Home Minister Amit Shah about “forcing” the implementation of Citizenship Act were “preposterous” and “against the very concept of constitutional federalism”.
CAA, NRC and NPR
The Citizenship Amendment Act 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. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam.
The BJP has refused to cede ground to the protestors, who have demanded a rollback of all three of the government’s moves. The citizens’ register is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants, and the government’s critics fear that since a religion criteria has now been added to the Citizenship Act, only Muslims will be disproportionately affected by NRC. The National Population Register is the first step towards NRC. A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court asking the government to explain the link between the two.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have repeatedly lashed out at protestors and Opposition parties for taking to the streets against the citizenship law.