Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday said the Citizenship Amendment Act had been misunderstood, and claimed there was no need to pass an Assembly resolution against it, The Indian Express reported. Last month, the ruling party had said the law has several loopholes.
In an interview to party mouthpiece Saamana, Thackeray said the “misunderstandings” about the citizenship law need to be cleared. “CAA is not a law to remove someone from the country,” he added. “Amit Shah has said that it is to give citizenship. And I agree with it to that extent. It is to give citizenship to those persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries and not to remove anyone from the country.”
The chief minister asked the Union government why it was not providing details of the number of religious minorities from neighbouring nations who have applied for Indian citizenship. “How many people wants to come to India?” Thackeray asked in the interview to Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP and Saamana Executive Editor Sanjay Raut. “Why are you not revealing the figure? Where will you house them when the persecuted Hindu minorities are taken in our country? Will they be given houses under Prime Minister Awas Yojana? What are the plans for their employment and the education of their children? We have the right to know all these things.”
Thackeray categorically ruled out the implementation of the National Register of Citizens in Maharashtra. He said during the exercise the roots of people from all religions, including Hindus, would be questioned. “It is not that the NRC is troublesome for Muslims only,” he said. “In fact, NRC will not come. We will not let it come. If BJP decides to implement the NRC, it will create problems not only for Muslims but for all of us, Hindus and the people from all the religions.”
The chief minister said proving citizenship would be difficult for Hindus and Muslims. “I will not let NRC to come in,” he added. “As chief minister or without chief minister, I will not allow anyone to take away anybody’s rights.”
The chief minister said the Shiv Sena’s stand that infiltrators from Pakistan and Bangladesh must be evicted from India had been taken by his father and party founder Balasaheb Thackeray. “A migrant is a migrant,” PTI quoted Thackeray as saying. “You can’t honour him with the Padma award. This is not our new stand. For just a few percent of fake currency notes, you demonetised the currency notes. Similarly, you are making the entire country stand in queue for few percent of infiltrators. This government has strange policy of keeping the people always under tension.”
The Shiv Sena has frequently changed its stand on the Citizenship Amendment Act since December, when it was approved by Parliament. The party had earlier criticised the Centre for creating an “invisible partition of Hindus and Muslims”.
It stayed out of the Rajya Sabha when the House voted on the amendments. Party MP Sanjay Raut then claimed that the Sena had “boycotted” the voting as “it is not right to either support or oppose the bill when answers are not given properly” by the government. The Upper House cleared the bill, with 125 votes in favour and 105 against. The Shiv Sena has three members in the Rajya Sabha. However, the party’s 18 members in the Lok Sabha voted in favour of the amendments despite opposing them during the debate.
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. At least 28 people have died in protests against the law since December.
The citizens’ register is a proposed exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. However, the Union government’s critics fear that the citizenship law, clubbed with NRC, will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion. After protests began in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there had been no discussions on conducting a nationwide NRC. The government reiterated its claim in Parliament on Tuesday.