Mumbai: Though there is no disagreement in principle with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the National Register of Citizens is problematic and it will trouble Hindus and Muslims alike, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has said. In an interview with Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana’s executive editor Sanjay Raut, the third part of which came out on Wednesday, he also slammed erstwhile ally Bharatiya Janata Party for “ditching a true and old friend”.
Speaking about the CAA and the protests around it, Thackeray said there was nothing new or serious about it, but that the central government should give information about the Hindu minorities seeking Indian citizenship. The Centre should also provide a detailed plan of their rehabilitation, else the burden will fall on large cities like Mumbai, the CM said. In fact, he suggested that Hindu minorities facing religious persecution in neighbouring countries should be rehabilitated in Kashmir.
The CAA makes it easier to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Critics say the law discriminates against Muslims and fails the constitutional principles of secularism and equality. The enactment of the legislation in December, and the prospect of a pan-India NRC with the aim to identify illegal migrants, has sparked a wave of protests across the country with sporadic instances of violence.
Thackeray also slammed the BJP-led Centre for its communication strategy on the NRC, and about the failed exercise in Assam. “This is a weird policy of the government – to keep you under stress continuously. Just like demonetisation, you want the whole nation to stand in a queue for a few illegal immigrants," he said.
When asked about the CAA, the Shiv Sena chief said, “What is new and serious in it? CAA is for the Hindu minorities from our neighbouring countries. Why doesn’t the country know the number of Hindus that have sought asylum in our country due to religious persecution? What is the plan for their rehabilitation, employment? As the chief minister of a state, shouldn’t the Centre tell us? These immigrants are not going to go to Dhule, Palghar. They are going to go to our important cities, which are already overburdened. Our people themselves don't have adequate facilities in these cities. How are we to accommodate them? Will you give them houses in Kashmir? Our Kashmiri Pandits themselves are living like displaced people. Balasaheb Thackeray rehabilitated them. There should be understanding about CAA. CAA isn't about removing someone from the country. Like Amit Shah said, it is about giving citizenship. It is not for driving away the current residents of the country."
Thackeray said there was no point in supporting or opposing the NRC right now. But he also spoke of how it was a failed exercise in Assam and that 14 lakh of the 19 lakh people who couldn't prove their citizenship were Hindus.
“The problem is about NRC. If NRC is brought in, not only will it trouble the Muslims, it will trouble everyone including people like you and me. The secular fabric of the nation will be strained. Everyone will have to prove their citizenship. So Muslims are on the streets to oppose it, and Hindus will support, is a false notion. It will be problematic for the Hindus as well,” he said.
There are no plans for now to conduct a nationwide National Register of Citizens exercise, the central government said in Parliament on Tuesday. Several non-BJP states have also refused to start work on the National Population Register (NPR), apprehensive that it will lay the groundwork for the NRC.
The Sena chief said his party will not allow the implementation of NRC anywhere else in the country. “In Assam, at present, 19 lakh people have not yet been able to prove their citizenship. Of them, 14 lakh are Hindus. Some of them are our Army personnel who had shown courage in Kargil war,” he said. “Those opposing NRC are being branded as traitors. But let me tell even those persons supporting NRC that even they will have to stand in queue tomorrow. What will happen to the tribals? They will hit the streets in large numbers if you ask them for citizenship proof tomorrow. Our Hindu majority will have to suffer the most due to NRC. But NRC isn't there right now. So there is no point in coming out in support or in opposition of it at present.”