Accusing the Opposition of pursuing “divide and rule politics” and stoking violence over the amended citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Sunday that the legislation and the National Register of Citizen (NRC) had nothing to do with Indian Muslims, as he sought to assuage their concerns amid widespread protests.
Strongly defending the contentious law, he said at a rally it was about giving rights to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries and did not snatch anybody’s rights, as he made an appeal for peace.
On the NRC, Modi sought to allay apprehensions, especially among Muslims, saying his government has never discussed it since coming to power for the first time in 2014.
It has been discussed neither in Parliament nor in the Cabinet, he added.
He cited a Hindi idiom to liken the apprehensions about the NRC in a section of society to somebody getting scared after being told that a crow has cut his ears.
"Congress and its friends have been shouting that see the crow has flown after cutting your ear. And some people began chasing the crow. They should first check if the crow has cut their ears or not.... First you find out if anything has been done on the NRC," he said.
Several Union ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have often pitched for a nationwide National Register of Citizens exercise, with Shah telling Parliament recently that it will be carried out.
The government has, however, issued no communication about it.
"The citizenship law or the NRC has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. They have nothing to worry," Modi said, accusing the Congress, its allies and "urban naxals" of spreading rumour that Muslims will be sent to detention centres.
The law has, in fact, nothing to do with Indian citizens, he said and asked people to stand up to pay tribute to Parliament and lawmakers for its passage.
Targeting the Congress, AAP, TMC and the Left, he said India had an opportunity to expose Pakistan's discrimination against minorities but it was lost due to their politics and accused these parties of working to "defame" India globally.
"Did we ask anybody's religion or caste when our government gave LPG cylinders to eight crore families? We never asked people's religion when giving homes to the poor during the last five years.
He also hit out at the chief ministers who have claimed that they will not implement the amended citizenship law in their states, saying they should have first consulted their legal officers.
The central government has maintained that the Constitution makes it binding on states to implement the law passed by Parliament.
Modi said infiltrators never "reveal" themselves unlike refugees who never "hide" their identities.
Speaking against violence during the recent anti-CAA protests, he accused the opposition of not making any appeal for peace and said their "silence" showed their indirect support to vandalism targeting school buses and trains.
Praising the police, which has faced criticism from some quarters for allegedly using excessive force against protestors, the prime minister said they have always helped people and noted that over 33,000 of them have sacrificed their lives in duty since independence.
Police did not rescue people from Anaj Mandi fire by asking their religion, he said referring to the December 8 incident in Delhi and decried incidents of cops being attacked during the protests.
Protesters have clashed with police in states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam during the anti-CAA demonstrations and several people have died in alleged police firing.
Modi said his rivals can burn his effigy and thrash it with shoes if they wish so, but they should not target the poor.
Meanwhile, West Bengal minister and state president of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind Siddiqullah Chowdhury threatened to disallow Home Minister Amit Shah to step out of the airport whenever he visits the city, if the Citizenship Amendment Act is not immediately withdrawn.