Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has dared the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens, and the National Population Register, Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.
Azad was speaking to a group of protestors in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, in the city’s Parade Ground who have been staging a sit-in similar to the anti-Citizenship Act protest in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality. “I won’t allow the government to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens or the National Population Register,” he said, according to Hindustan Times. “It’s my challenge to them. All three are divisive in nature and against the country’s unity.”
He urged the people to continue their protest and to not “bow down to the government.” “I assure you, it is completely as per law and not illegal to refuse to give data. If any [government] official comes and asks for data on the National Population Register, offer them tea and food, and ask them to turn away.”
At the Dehradun protest on Wednesday, Azad also read out the Preamble to the Indian Constitution along with the protestors. The Bhim Army chief admonished the Centre for trying to stop the ongoing anti-Citizenship Act protests in the country. “If they end one Shaheen Bagh, hundreds more will come up.”
Bharatiya Janata Party state unit leaders called Azad an “anarchist element” and accused him of “creating a rift in the society” through propaganda. “The public should not be misled by such propaganda,” Devendra Bhasin, state party spokesperson, said. “The laws [the Citizenship Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register] are not at all against anyone in the country.”
Shaheen Bagh has become the epicentre of protests against the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens. The Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch in Delhi has been closed since December 15 after protestors, mainly women and children, began the sit-in.
Two Supreme Court-appointed mediators visited Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality on Wednesday to convince the anti-Citizenship Act protestors to move their protest elsewhere. Advocates Sanjay Hegde and Sadhana Ramachandran were given the task by the top court during a hearing on Monday.
Azad on Wednesday had filed an intervention petition in the Supreme Court in the case, alleging that authorities have intentionally put up blockades on various streets – linking Delhi with Noida – to inconvenience commuters.
On Monday, the top court asked Hegde and Ramachandran to convince protestors to go to an alternative site. The top court also asked the two advocates to speak to former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah for assistance. The plea will be heard again on February 24.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, offers a fast track to citizenship for non-Muslim undocumented immigrants 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.
The National Register of Citizens is a proposed exercise to distinguish undocumented migrants from genuine Indian citizens. Critics of the CAA, NPR and NRC fear that the amended act along with the citizens’ register could be combined to disenfranchise millions of Muslims.