The Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Reverend Filipe Neri Ferrao, has appealed to the Centre to listen to anti-Citizenship Act protestors and “immediately and unconditionally revoke” the amended law, PTI reported on Sunday. Amendments to the Act, which were passed in December, have led to nationwide protests.
In a statement on Saturday, the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, a wing of the Goa Church, said: “The Archbishop and the Catholic community of Goa would like to appeal to the government to listen to the voice of millions in India, to stop quashing the right to dissent and, above all, to immediately and unconditionally revoke the CAA and desist from implementing the NRC [National Register of Citizens] and the NPR [National Population Register].”
The statement described the new citizenship law, the population register and the proposed register of Indian citizens as “divisive and discriminatory” and asserted that they will have a negative impact on a multicultural democracy such as India. The archbishop said the anti-CAA protests predicted a “systematic erosion of values, principles, and rights” provided to the citizens under the Constitution.
“The very fact that the CAA uses religion goes against the secular fabric of the country,” the statement said, according to The Times of India. The NRC and NPR will lead to “direct victimisation” of the underprivileged with some people, recognised as voters for over 70 years, at risk of being stripped of citizenship, the statement said. They could end up being “candidates for detention camps”, it said.
The statement also highlighted that eminent citizens have also spoken out on their stand against the CAA, NPR, and NRC. “We have always taken great pride that our beloved country is a secular, sovereign, socialist, pluralistic and democratic republic,” the archbishop said. He said that the Christian community in the country has always been peace-loving and committed to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution.
The archbishop’s statement came days after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological parent, invited him to an event near Panaji. The event, on Saturday, was reportedly a lecture and meeting with intellectuals on the Sangh’s concept of India.
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, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people have died during the protests with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal last month.
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”.