Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, one of the first chief ministers to declare that his government will block implementation of the amended citizenship law and the citizens’ register, on Tuesday asked the state assembly to back him up.
“The new citizenship law is against the secular fabric of the country,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the assembly as he stood up to propose a resolution that asks the BJP-led national coalition to withdraw the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by Parliament during the Winter Session.
The ruling Left Democratic Front, which had called a special assembly session to debate the proposal, expects the resolution against a law enacted by Parliament to be passed when it is put to a vote.
The ruling Left Democratic Front has a majority in the 140-member assembly. Plus, the move also has the support of Congress-led United Democratic Front.
O Rajagopal, the lone Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker in the state assembly, was the only one to oppose the resolution, insisting that it was unconstitutional to diss a law enacted by Parliament and against the country’s federal polity. Much of his speech was, however, lost in the din and disruptions.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the new law, combined with the National Register of Citizens, was designed to turn members of the minority community second class citizens. This cannot be allowed, he said, appealing to members to support the resolution irrespective of their political affiliations.
Congress member VD Satheesan supported the chief minister, criticising the amended citizenship law that enables non-Muslim religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has been widely criticised for introducing the religion test to grant of citizenship to undocumented migrants.
Opposition parties have also cited Home Minister Amit Shah to underscore that the change in the citizenship law was designed to harass Muslims in the exercise to build the National Register of Citizens since non-Muslims would be entitled to become citizens under this law if they can’t prove their citizenship.
VD Satheesan said the amended citizenship law was a clear ploy to divide and rule, against the spirit of the constitution and a clear violation of the constitutional guarantee to equality.
Congress lawmaker Shafi Parambil agreed. “Kerala always shows the country the right path. It is time the state also stood up to its reputation,” he said.