Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Giriraj Singh on Tuesday described Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh as the “gangotri of terrorism”, and blamed the region for nurturing terrorists, IANS reported on Wednesday.

Since January, Deoband town in the district has witnessed massive anti-Citizenship Act protests, led by women, similar to the one in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality. The BJP had, in its campaign for the Delhi Assembly elections, tried to portray them as a referendum on the demonstrations at Shaheen Bagh.

“I have said it earlier that Deoband is the Gangotri of terrorists,” he told the media in Saharanpur on Tuesday. “All most wanted terrorists of the world came from Deoband, including [Lashkar-e-Taiba founder] Hafiz Saeed or any of the others. These people are not against CAA, they are against India. This is a kind of a Khilafat movement.” The Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband is located in the town.

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Singh also alleged that if the protests against the amended Citizenship Act were just about the legislation, then Jawaharlal Nehru University student Sharjeel Imam would not have made the call to “divide the country”. “It is evident that minds of the young and women are being poisoned,” he said.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, 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 28 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.