Several Opposition leaders on Wednesday said they were ready for an open debate on the amended citizenship law, a day after Union Minister Amit Shah challenged them. Bahujan Samaj Party President Mayawati, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi agreed to a discussion at any platform.
Addressing a rally in Lucknow as part of the government’s outreach programme on the amended citizenship law, Shah on Tuesday challenged Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati for a discussion on Citizenship Amendment Act at a public forum. He also said the Citizenship Amendment Act will not be withdrawn, amid ongoing protests against the legislation. “Let me say this here and now, this law will not be withdrawn, no matter who protests,” he had said.
“The BSP is ready to accept the challenge thrown by the central government, which is troubled by the organised struggle and agitation all over the country against the most controversial CAA/NRC/NPR, especially by the youth and women, for a debate on the issue on any platform and anywhere,” Mayawati said in a tweet.
Akhilesh Yadav, instead, challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party for a debate on development. “As far as debate is concerned, finalise the venue,” Yadav said, according to ANI. “Select your favourite channels and anchors. We are ready to do a debate on development.” He also accused the saffron party of discriminating on the basis of religion. He added that not only his party but all those who “understand the soul” of the country were opposed to the amended citizenship law.
The Samajwadi Party chief also alleged that the BJP offers money to people to garner support for the citizenship law. “Women and youths, who are protesting against this law, are doing so on their own,” he added. “This law is not in the best interest of the masses. People do not accept it.”
Yadav’s comments came on a day Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath alleged that women and children were being pushed forward to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, adding that they did not even understand the meaning of the amended legislation. “If you go and ask anyone as to why are they sitting on a dharna, they will say that the men of the house feel that they have become so incompetent that they cannot do anything, so they want the women to go and sit on the dharna,” Adityanath alleged. Earlier, BJP’s Information Technology Cell chief Amit Malviya had alleged that the protestors at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh were paid Rs 500 per day to oppose the amended citizenship legislation. The women protestors of Shaheen Bagh then sent a defamation notice to Malviya. They have demanded an apology and Rs 1 crore in damages from the BJP leader.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, on the other hand, asked Shah to debate with him instead of challenging leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav. “Why debate with them?” he asked at a rally in Telangana’s Karimnagar, according to ANI. “Debate with me. The debate should be with a bearded man. I can debate with them on CAA, NPR [National Population Register] and NRC [National Register of Citizens].”
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 and 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 for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday said Shah has challenged those leaders who have not come out of their homes to fight against him. “The home minister is challenging those who have not even come out of their homes to fight against him, and the people whom he should throw a challenge are talking about problems of other states,” she wrote in the tweet in Hindi.
She went on to add: “The people of Uttar Pradesh understand everything.”