Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday sought to assuage concerns of Muslims over the amended citizenship law and the NRC, saying both have nothing to do with Indian citizens and slammed his rivals for "inciting" people and trying to divide the country in their bid to target him.
Putting up a strong defence of the contentious law, he said at a rally in the national capital that it is about giving rights to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries and does not snatch anybody's rights. Launching a scathing attack on opposition parties like the Congress, AAP, TMC and the Left over their protests against the law, he said India had an opportunity to expose Pakistan over its discrimination against minorities but it was lost due to their politics.
Modi devoted a considerable part of his nearly 100-minute speech, which he started with the slogan of 'vividhta me ekta, Bharat ki visheshta' (Unity in diversity is India's speciality) , to allay concerns of Muslims and said they should look at his "track record" and not listen to "tape record" of his rivals. He cited his development schemes like giving LPG cylinders to the poor and health insurance scheme to assert that it has never mattered to his government whether people go to temple or mosque.
"The citizenship law or the NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims. They have nothing to worry," he said, accusing the Congress, its allies and "urban naxals" of spreading the rumour that Muslims will be sent to detention centres.
The citizenship law, he added, has in fact nothing to do Indian citizens. In a clear justification of having a nationwide National Register of Citizens, he said infiltrators never "reveal" themselves unlike refugees who never "hide" their identities.
He dared his rivals to find anything discriminatory in his work and alleged that they have resorted to dividing the country through their "vote bank politics, lies and rumours" after being unable to challenge him politically. Modi said lies were being spread about the NRC and asserted that the previous Congress governments had mooted it.
His government has not discussed it so far either in Parliament or in Cabinet, he added. Speaking strongly against violence during the recent protests against CAA, he attacked the opposition for not making any appeal for peace and said their "silence" showed their indirect support to vandalism targeting school buses and trains.
Praising police forces, which have faced criticism from some quarters for allegedly using excessive force against students and protestors in a few places, the prime minister said they have always come to people's help and noted that over 33,000 of them have sacrificed their lives in duty since independence.
Several protesters in states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam have died in alleged police firing. Modi asked his rivals to burn his effigy and thrash it with shoes if they wish so, but they should not target assets and properties of others. He quoted comments of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in support of giving citizenship rights to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries to assert that the BJP-led NDA government has done what was promised by the opposition party when it was in power, but was never done due to vote bank politics.
He made a reference to a speech of Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee, who is also West Bengal chief minister, in Parliament against infiltration into the state and attacked her for "changing" her stand due to "vote bank politics". "These leaders changed their stand and all their love and sympathy for these refugees vanished," he sad.
Modi also spoke about the "support" he had received from Muslim countries and the highest civilian honour bestowed on him by many of them to assert that it has "scared" the Congress and its friends. "They are worried if Muslims across the world support me so much, then how long they can frighten Indian Muslims (against me)," he said, while accusing his rivals of running a campaign against him.
Modi said everything is being done to remove him by his rivals, adding that efforts have been made for over 20 years to target him but these never succeeded.