President Ram Nath Kovind hails CAA, skips NRC mention he made in House last year

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On the CAA, President Kovind said: “India has always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths. However, at the time of Partition, this very belief of India and of its people came under the most severe attack.

As protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC) continue in different parts of the country, President Ram Nath Kovind, in his customary address to the joint session of the two Houses of Parliament to start the Budget session, hailed the passage of the CAA but made no mention of the NRC, unlike his address to the joint session at the inaugural of the 17th Lok Sabha on June 20 last year.

On the CAA, President Kovind said: “India has always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths. However, at the time of Partition, this very belief of India and of its people came under the most severe attack.

Full text: President Ram Nath Kovind’s address to joint sitting of Parliament

In the environment prevailing in the aftermath of partition, the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi had said: ‘Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India. It is the duty of the Government of India to ensure a normal life for them.’

Many national leaders and political parties have from time to time supported this idea of Pujya Bapu and further propagated it. It is our responsibility to honour this wish of the founding fathers of our nation.”

“I am happy that both the Houses of Parliament have fulfilled this wish, by enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act. At a time when the country is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, all of you have given paramount consideration to this sentiment. I congratulate both the Houses of Parliament and all the MPs for this.”

“My Government would like to clarify once again that the procedures which have existed for people from all faiths of the world who believe in India and who wish to obtain Indian citizenship, remain unchanged. A person of any faith can follow these processes and become a citizen of India. The Government has made several provisions to ensure that granting citizenship to those who have been compelled to take shelter in India does not have any adverse cultural impact on any region, especially the North East.”

He, however, made no mention of the NRC. In his June 20, 2019 address, President Kovind had said: “Illegal infiltrators pose a major threat to our internal security. This is leading to social imbalance in many parts of the country, as well as putting a huge pressure on limited livelihood opportunities. My Government has decided to implement the process of ‘National Register of Citizens’ on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration. Security along the border will be further strengthened to prevent infiltration.”

Recap: President’s Address to Parliament in 2019, and the current status of those initiatives

“While on the one hand, the Government is working to identify the infiltrators, on the other, it is also fully committed to protecting the victims of persecution due to their faith. In this regard, efforts will be made to amend the Citizenship Act while protecting the linguistic, cultural and social identities.”

The amendment to the Citizenship Act was carried out by Parliament during the winter session in December. Its passage triggered nationwide protests over Home Minister Amit Shah’s assertion for a nationwide NRC during his reply to a debate on the citizenship amendment legislation.

On Friday, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP members responded to the President’s laudatory reference to the CAA with thumping of desks, Opposition members shouted “shame shame”. BJP members shouted “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram” and the Trinamool Congress matched it with “Jai Hind”.

A little before Kovind finished his address, over a dozen Trinamool Congress members displayed banners which read ‘No CAA’, ‘No NPR’ and ‘No NRC’.  Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad sat in the fifth row, instead of the front seats earmarked for them. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the front row. Opposition members belonging to 14 parties sported black arm-bands.

On minorities in Pakistan, the President said: “We have all seen what happened in Nankana Sahib recently. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring the atrocities being committed in Pakistan to the notice of the global community.” On terrorism, he said the government had given security forces a free hand to curb it.

“The faith reposed by the people of our country in our democratic institutions strengthens the foundation of our democracy. The maturity displayed by the countrymen after the Supreme Court’s verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi is also laudable. My Government is of the firm view that mutual discussions and debates strengthen democracy. At the same time, any kind of violence in the name of protests weakens the society and the nation,” he said.