Chandigarh : Describing the controversial legislation as ‘inherently discriminatory’ and a negation of the very secular fabric on which the Constitution of India is based, the Punjab Assembly on Friday adopted, by voice vote, a hard-hitting resolution seeking immediate repeal of the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), which Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh compared with the ethnic and religious cleansing of Hitler’s Germany.
Clearly, no lessons had been learnt from history, said a visibly anguished Chief Minister during the discussion on the resolution, which 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.
The resolution, which termed CAA as divisive and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, was introduced in the House by Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra, and witnessed extensive discussion before being put to vote by Speaker Rana KP Singh.
Pointing to the omission of Muslims and such other communities as Jews from the ambit of citizenship under the CAA, the resolution asked for a repeal of the Act “to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before law for all religious groups in India.”
Talking informally to media persons outside the House, the Chief Minister said the Centre would have to make the necessary amendments to CAA if it had to be implemented in Punjab and other states opposing the legislation. Like Kerala, his government would also approach the Supreme Court on the issue, he added. In response to a question, he made it clear that the census in Punjab would be conducted on the old parameters and the new factors added by the Centre for the purpose of the NPR would not be included.
Terming the divisive Act as a tragedy that he was unfortunate to witness in his lifetime, the Chief Minister earlier spoke from the heart in the House to lament that “what happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now.” “Germans did not speak then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak 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. He said he would get the book translated and distributed so that all could read and grasp the historical mistakes that Hitler made.
“What is happening in India is not good for the country,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that people could see and understand, and were protesting spontaneously, without any instigation.” Making an impassioned plea to the Akalis to rise above politics and think about their own country 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 the Home Minister even thought about what has to be done with the so-called illegal people? Where will the poor people get their birth certificates from?” asked the Chief Minister, declaring that “we all have to live together as citizens of secular India in our own interest.”
People of all faiths have lived harmoniously together in this country all these years, and Muslims have given their lives for this country, said the Chief Minister, citing the example of Indian Army soldier Abdul Hamid, who received the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his actions during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, just like many others. The Cellular Jail in Andamans was full of Muslim names, he pointed out.
“Why have Muslims been excluded? And why have they (Centre) not included Jews in the CAA?”, asked Captain Amarinder, pointing out that India had a Jew Governor, General Jacob, who also fought for the nation in the 1971 war. Those responsible for this situation should be ashamed of themselves, said the Chief Minister, even as he lashed out at the Akalis for supporting the legislation in Parliament and then speaking on it in different voices to promote their political agenda.
Pointing out that Punjab had just celebrated the 550th Prakash Purb of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, who taught that “koyi Hindu nahin, koyi Mussalman nahin, sab rab key bandey,” Captain Amarinder asked the Akalis if they had forgotten the Guru’s teachings. “You should be ashamed, and you will repent this one day,” he said, adding that he felt bad about speaking in such language but circumstances had made it necessary.