Chandigarh: Calling the Citizenship (Amendment) Act “inherently discriminatory”, the Punjab Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution seeking its immediate repeal, and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced that his government would approach the Supreme Court against it, the second state after Kerala to do so.
The opposition Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the BJP, opposed the resolution in its present form, but asserted that it would not back a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The ruling Congress, main opposition Aam Aadmi Party and the Lok Insaaf Party supported the resolution saying the law would “spoil the secular fabric of the country”, but the BJP opposed it.
Contending that the Act was a “negation of the secular fabric on the Constitution”, the Assembly passed the resolution, moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra, by voice vote after three hours of discussion.
The Kerala Assembly was the first to pass a resolution against the amended Citizenship Act. Kerala has also moved the Supreme Court against the law.
The CAA provides for granting citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who had migrated to India before December 31, 2014 from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
CM Singh said the Centre would have to make the necessary amendments to the CAA if it had to be implemented in Punjab and other states opposing the legislation.
“Like Kerala, our government will also approach the Supreme Court on the issue”, he later told reporters outside the Assembly. In response to a question, he made it clear that the census in Punjab would be conducted on the old parameters.
The new factors added by the Centre for the purpose of the National Population Register (NPR) would not be included, he said.
The SAD demanded changes in the resolution seeking inclusion of Muslim in the list of communities that would be granted citizenship under the amended law, but it was disallowed by the Speaker.
SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said, “On NRC issue, SAD will be against it and not support it as common people will be hassled standing in queues to prove their citizenship.”
Opposing the resolution, BJP MLA Arun Narang said, “The new law is not going to take anyone's citizenship away, this has been made clear time and again.”
In the Assembly, CM Singh described the Act as against “secular fabric of the counry” and said events unfolding now were similar to the ones witnessed in Europe when Adolf Hitler was at the helm in Germany.
Participating in the discussion, Singh hit out at the Centre and said, “You want to change secular fabric of this country. It is very sad what is happening now.
We had not even thought of such a thing. We want to break brotherhood merely for politics.” “Clearly, no lessons had been learnt from history,” he said.
The resolution also urged the central government to put on hold the work on the National Population Register (NPR), till forms/documents associated with it are amended suitably, in order to allay apprehensions that it is a prelude to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and designed to deprive a section of persons from citizenship of India and implement CAA.
Terming the “divisive" Act and NRC as a tragedy, he said, “Where will the poor go and from where will they procure their birth certificates...this is a great tragedy.
And I am very sorry to say...I wish I was not here when this is happening to my country where we are going to be in a situation where brotherhood is being broken for politics.” The chief minister said in the Assembly “what happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now”.
“Germans did not speak out then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak out now, so that we don't regret later,” he asserted, urging the Opposition, particularly the Akalis, to read Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' to understand the dangers of CAA.
Making an impassioned plea to the Akalis to rise above politics and go by their conscience before deciding on their vote, he said he had never imagined such a tragedy could happen in a secular nation like India, which had more Muslims than Pakistan.
“Where will all those people, who you brand as non-citizens, go? Where will the 18 lakh people declared illegal in Assam go if other countries refuse to take them?
Has anyone thought about it? Has Union Home Minister Amit Shah even thought about what has to be done with the so-called illegal people?” asked the chief minister, declaring that “we all have to live together as citizens of secular India in our own interest.”
“Why have Muslims been excluded? And why have they (Centre) not included Jews in the CAA?” he asked, pointing out that Punjab earlier had a Governor, General JFR Jacob, who was a Jew and fought for the nation in the 1971 war.
“Those responsible for this situation should be ashamed of themselves," he said and lashed out at the Akalis for supporting the legislation in Parliament and then speaking on it in "different voices to promote their political agenda”.
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the CAA had been introduced to “single out” one particular religion and this will perpetuate sectarian tendencies. “It will be an insult to freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh if such laws are implemented,” he said.
Earlier, ABVP activists staged a protest on a road leading to the Assembly, alleging that through the resolution the Punjab government was trying to distract the attention of people from core issues such as employment.