As protests over the passage of the Citizenship Bill continues across Northeast, three more states have come up against the Act. Chief Ministers of Punjab and Kerala have announced they have nothing to do with the Citizenship Act, that they allege as BJP-led centre's attempts to strip the country of its secular credentials. The development comes days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared she will not allow the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to be implemented in her state even after it becomes a law.
The Act has now come into effect as President Ram Nath Kovind has given his nod to the Bill. The Bill, which proposes to give citizenship to non-Muslim migrants who have come to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh facing religious persecution there, was passed by Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and by Lok Sabha on Monday.
According to the Act, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.
Kerala refuses to accept Citizenship Act
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, passed by Parliament, will not be implemented in the state. Vijayan lashed out at the BJP-led government and said the "unconstitutional Bill" will have no place in Kerala and the state will not implement it.
While asking the people to oppose the Bill, Vijayan claimed that the proposed law is a rejection of secularism and the saffron party had made it clear that its main political plank is communalism.
"The Act is unconstitutional.. Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) will have no place in Kerala and it will not be implemented in the State," Vijayan told reporters.
Vijayan also tweeted that democracy in the country was in danger.
"...with CAB, Sangh Parivar has used the majority they enjoy in the parliament to uproot the bedrock of Indian democracy & Constitution. It's a rejection of secularism. BJP has made it clear that their main political plank is communalism. We must resist," Vijayan said in a tweet.
"The state government will question the validity of this black law at all possible platforms. The Supreme Court has repeatedly made it clear that secularism is the foundation of the country's constitution.
Through this law, the centre is trying to create a communal divide," Vijayan said.
He said India is well-known as a nation where people belonging to various castes, creed and religions live together harmoniously.
"This is a land where thousands of Muslim brothers came to settle during partition after leaving religious Pakistan for a secular India.
The primitive politics of RSS compares India with Pakistan and insists on implementing their ideas," he said.
The Chief Minister claimed the new law will only help destroy the peace and harmony of the country and lead it through the situation faced by various violence-hit religious nations.
"This is the law that humiliates India before the world," Vijayan said and asserted that the state government would not allow any kind of discrimination on the basis of religion.
"People of all religions and also those who are non-religious have the right to live as an Indian citizen. It's a constitutional right," the chief minister said.
Vijayan claimed the RSS was seeking to implement the agenda of the Hindu Rashtra, which was initiated by VD Savarkar and fostered by MS Golwalkar. He said the Supreme Court had repeatedly stated that the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended, and claimed that the CAB will not stand judicial scrutiny.
"The Union government, even after knowing all this, passed the unconstitutional law using brute majority in Parliament for cheap political motives. There is a conspiracy to tear down democracy and equality of the nation and establish dictatorship and make India a religious state," Vijayan alleged.
He said it was not wrong to suspect that it was a step towards undermining the idea of democratic republic of India and urged all sections of the people who believe in democracy and the Constitution to rally against this.
The Left leader said studies and figures have revealed that the country's economy was in dire straits and communal forces were trying to implement such divisive measures to divert public attention from serious problems.
"This is a tactic that has successfully tested and implemented by the British in India and Hitler in Germany. History has shown that they do not last long. The growing anger and protest over the amendment to the law in various parts of the country also points in that direction," Vijayan said.
Punjab turns its back on Citizenship Act
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said the Congress, with the majority it commands in the Punjab assembly, will block the "unconstitutional" bill from being implemented in the state.
"The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was a direct assault on India's secular character and the Parliament had 'no authority' to pass a law that 'defiled' the Constitution and violated its basic principles. A day after the Bill was passed by Parliament, the Congress leader said, instead of using brute majority in Parliament to push through the Bill, the central government should have discussed the matter with all parties and tried to evolve a consensus "if at all it felt the legislation was in the interest of India and its people".
Any legislation that seeks to "divide the people of the country on religious lines is illegal and unethical, and could not be allowed to sustain," he said in a statement.
The move is retrograde and regressive and seeks to take India back from the progressive charter mandated by its Constitution, he charged.
"By linking citizenship with religion, the Bill will hit at the very foundation of the nation.... What if other countries, where Indians are settled in large numbers and have acquired their citizenship, decide to bring in a similar legislation? What will happen to those Indians if the countries of their stay decide to withdraw their citizenship on account of their religious beliefs?" the chief minister asked.
"The Congress government in the state, on its part, would not let the legislation rip apart the secular fabric of the country, whose strength lies in its diversity," Singh said.