New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) Registering strong protest against the NPR, NRC and the amended Citizenship Act, leaders of 14 opposition parties, including the Congress, on Friday wore black arm bands during the president's address to both the Houses of Parliament, saying it was 'shameful' on the part of the government to claim the CAA as an achievement.
The opposition leaders earlier also staged a protest outside Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament complex and raised slogans against the government while standing in solidarity with those protesting against the National Population Register (NPR), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Sources said various opposition parties would move amendments on President Ram Nath Kovind's address seeking the removal of reference made to the passage of the CAA from it.
Leaders of these parties, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not sit on their designated seats in the front and second rows and sat together in one block in the Central hall of Parliament during the president's address as a mark of their protest.
The black bands were worn as a mark of protest against the alleged attack on the Constitution of India with the passage of the amended Citizenship Act by the government, the leaders said.
Opposition members also protested after President Kovind hailed the CAA in his address. As soon as the president made these remarks, some opposition members shouted 'shame, shame' and displayed banners in the Central Hall.
Among the leaders of the opposition parties who wore black bands were Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Shiv Sena, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Janata Dal (Secular), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Kerala Congress (M), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the National Conference (NC), besides the Congress, the sources said. 'Fourteen political parties protested outside Mahatma Gandhi's statue and sat on a dharna there since morning and wore black bands on their arms as a mark of protest against the NPR, NRC and CAA,' Azad told reporters, adding that the opposition leaders also left their designated seats in the front row and sat at the back. 'It is unfortunate that the government has included the passage of the CAA in the president's address and termed it as an achievement. There cannot be a bigger shame than the government claiming the CAA as their achievement. The president only reads the address prepared by the Union Cabinet,' he said.
'It is a state-sponsored violence as government has done nothing to prevent it,' CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said while referring to the shooting incident at Jamia on Thursday.
'The society is dangerously inching towards a civil war-like situation and the government is solely responsible for it. The government's agenda is to divide the people to consolidate its own Hindutva motive,' Yechury said.
Azad said there is no mention of unemployment, falling GDP, price rise in the president's address.
'The government's claim that a lot of development has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir after it was turned into a union territory is a lie and a cruel joke on the people of the state and the government should apologise to them as well as the country,' he said.
Yechury said all the parties are concerned about the development situation in the country, alleging that strife is rising.
The government has not given any signal of resolving the protests and are instead resorting to violence on protesters, he said.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said what has happened is an assault on the Constitution as many of the legislations, which have been claimed as achievements of the government, are 'divisive' and have created deep fault lines in the country and there is tension.
'The government is arrogant and it is also lacking in compassion, the kind of violence that has been engineered, triggered and the kind of language that the ministers and the senior leaders of the BJP are using. Therefore, when we have questioned the constitutional morality of some of the steps taken by the government which we have said are discriminatory and divisive. These should not have found any reference in the president's address. Tomorrow, yes the Budget will come but we know that India is staring at a deepening economic recession,' he alleged.
'It is unfortunate that when the country is commemorating 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi and 500 years of Guru Nanak, what is happening in India militates against what they stood for and their teachings. This is what the government is expected to address, not to become an active agent in polarising and dividing for short-term political gains,' Sharma said.
'So, we have said Rashtrapati Ji's 'abhibhashan' (address) did not even have platitudes. This was a laundry list of wrong laws,' he said.
Earlier in the day, top Congress leaders led by the Congress president staged a protest near Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament complex to save the Constitution and express solidarity with those protesting against the Citizenship Act, NRC and the NPR.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was accompanied by party leader Rahul Gandhi, Azad, senior party leaders Motilal Vohra, Ahmed Patel, Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, A K Antony and all party MPs from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
They held placards that read 'Save the Constitution' and raised anti-government slogans while expressing solidarity with the protesters against the CAA, NPR and the NRC. PTI SKC KJ