NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 4: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday came out in support of his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan over the resolution passed in the Assembly against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, as the Congress toughened its stand by asking the Narendra Modi Government not to trigger India’s disintegration.
In a strong letter to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Amarinder said: “Minister, as heads of responsible Governments of our states, we are neither naïve nor misguided. In a federal structure such as ours, it is imperative that the Centre heed the voice which arises from the people of our states. Laws are not to be forcibly imposed on citizens. Like all powers, even parliamentary power is coupled with the duty to exercise it responsibly.”
Referring to Prasad’s suggestion to the states to “seek appropriate legal advice” before announcing the rejection of the CAA, Amarinder said: “We have done so. While you aggressively defend the CAA by insisting that only Parliament under Article 245 has the legislative power to pass laws as regards citizenship, and not the state Governments, I am afraid you have entirely missed the point of the resolution passed by the Kerala Assembly.”
Punjab, along with Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, has announced that the new citizenship law would not be implemented in their states.
Amarinder pointed out that the Kerala Assembly had not passed a citizenship law but only urged Parliament to amend the CAA, which only Parliament can.
Countering the Law Minister’s argument that the states had a constitutional obligation to implement laws enacted by Parliament, Amarinder wrote: “The very fabric of our Constitution requires secular conduct. This is the very foundation of the Constitution which you are asking the states to abide by.”
The Punjab Chief Minister repeatedly reminded Prasad that he being a lawyer should understand better. Amarinder insisted that the CAA had failed the test of Article 14, which ensures equality, and pointed to the widespread fear caused by confusing signals on the NRC.
“The fear that laws can be mutilated, shredded and discarded overnight to suit political objectives is naturally a legitimate concern of many right-minded citizens of our country.”
Amarinder also raised a vital question: “As the Chief Minister of a border state I too have a grave concern. The language of the CAA does not even require that any illegal migrant seeking its benefit need not be of Indian origin in any manner.
“All they have to be is from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. This could be a citizen or even a resident or even a temporary person in transit through these countries. This could be misused for infiltration into our country, particularly in the border states, converting this misguided legislation into a national security threat.”
The Law Minister did not respond to Amarinder’s specific questions but said in a series of tweets: “You are a senior, seasoned & informed leader who fought for India as an army officer earlier. Both Centre & states have to work together to keep India safe & secure & also give shelter to those persecuted for their faith. This is the glorious tradition of India.
“Kindly see Articles 245, 246, 256 of the Constitution, which clearly enjoin that Parliament has constitutional power to pass laws for the entire country and it is the duty of every state to act in a manner to ensure compliance. Similarly states can also pass laws for the states.”
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday did not comment on the Kerala resolution but articulated wider concerns by saying: “This politics of polarisation will break the country.”
Speaking to the media in Jaipur, the Congress leader said: “Has (Narendra) Modi or (Amit) Shah assessed what will happen to the country over the next 25 years? Hindu rashtra is easier said than done. No religion-based country can flourish ~ what happened to Pakistan?
“If you harp on Hindu rashtra, India will disintegrate. What will Punjab do? Tamil Nadu has a problem. Why didn’t they draw lessons from the Assam experience and abandon this needless exercise? They now say we will reach out to the people to explain. But why create a crisis in the first place?”
In Delhi, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said: “The Government is elected to work, to solve problems, to create jobs. It is not elected merely to abuse the Opposition. Modi and Shah have brought the country to a 1947-like situation. The BJP allies are not with them on the CAA-NRC issue; its own Chief Minister of Assam has said the NRC will not be implemented. The BJP should stop thrusting its divisive agenda on the nation.”