Amidst ongoing nationwide protests opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday, January 19, dubbed the stand some of the States have taken as 'unconstitutional' at the Programme on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 event in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Noting that certain States have chosen not to implement CAA, the Union Minister explained all States have the responsibility to ensure a law passed by the Parliament is enforced.
Defending the Act, she maintained there was no necessity to mix up the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) with CAA and appealed to those protesting against the Act not to make allegations that would 'lead to unrest among the public'.
In the conference, the Union Minister rejected allegations that the BJP government was being selective in granting citizenship to people. She supported her argument presenting figures about the number of people from Pakistan who were granted citizenship during the last six years.
'In the last six years, as many as 2,838 Pakistani refugees, 914 Afghanistani refugees, 172 Bangladeshi refugees including Muslims have been given Indian citizenship. From 1964 to 2008, more than 4,00,000 Sri Lanka Tamils have been given Indian citizenship', Sitharaman said at the 'Programme on Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019' event.
At the interactive session on CAA organised by the Chennai Citizens' Forum, she said the resolutions passed by some state assemblies, including Kerala, against the law was a political statement.
The Kerala and Punjab assemblies have reportedly adopted resolutions demanding repeal of the CAA which has triggered widespread protests across the country. Kerala government has also moved the Supreme Court against the law.
Several State governments, including Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra have voiced their disagreement with the CAA, as well as the NRC and the NPR.
'Until 2014, only 566 Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were granted citizenship, but under Modi government, between 2016-2018, around 1595 Pakistani migrants and 391 Afghanistani Muslims were given Indian citizenship'.
'This data is for those who comment that the government has not given citizenships for Muslims. For example, Adnan Sami, he is a singer of prominence. He received citizenship in 2016 when the same Prime Minister was there then', she said.
The Minister further observed that Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen was also given residence permit since 2004.
'These figures would deny allegations made by the Opposition that this government was giving citizenship only to some people and not for everyone. There is no truth in it and the allegations are incorrect', she said.
Asserting that the government was snatching away anyone's citizenship, FM Sitharaman appealed to those who oppose the CAA with folded hands and said 'If you have any objection speak and raise questions in the Parliament'.
Shedding light on a particularly imperative point about refugee camps, Nirmala Sitharaman said, It has been 50-60 years now. If you visit these camps, your heart will cry. The situation is the same with Sri Lankan refugees who continue to live in camps. They're barred from getting basic facilities.
Noting that the CAA was a sensitive issue and needed to be handled carefully, she explained NPR is updated every 10 years and it was not implemented by the Modi government. The Union Minister further claimed senior leaders of Congress and the then Home Minister were responsible for bringing it into effect back in 2010.