Accusing the Opposition of inciting protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday warned that street agitations against decisions of Parliament and State Assemblies may lead to “anarchy” and that everyone should be worried over it.
Strongly defending the CAA that has triggered protests, PM Modi reiterated in Lok Sabha that it does not affect any Indian citizen and poses no harm to minorities, and said those rejected by people in elections are fuelling protests against it for their “vote bank politics”.
He accused the Opposition of using all its might to stoke “imaginary” fears about the law, which grants citizenship to minorities from three Muslim countries in the neighbourhood, and likened its stand to that of Pakistan, saying Islamabad spoke the same language for decades to mislead and incite Indian Muslims.
Pakistan could not succeed, and what has surprised him that those thrown out of power by voters have resorted to doing such things, Mr. Modi said in his over 100-minute-long reply to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Address, which was later passed by Lok Sabha.
So much criticism of the CAA has been made ironically by those who love getting photographed with the group of people who want “tukde tukde” of India, he said, adding that even courts have asserted that protests should not inconvenience people and be not marked by violence.
“We have seen the kind of speeches and remarks were made recently (in these protests). Big leaders of Opposition go there. I regret it,” he said.
BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, have often hit out at these protests, including the one in Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, saying anti-India and radical speeches have been made.
The Prime Minister delivered rebuttal to the Opposition over most issues its members raised to criticise his government and took on the charge that he pursued communal politics and wanted Hindu rashtra. He cited comments of Jawaharlal Nehru to back the law and said the Congress stalwart wanted citizenship for minorities from Pakistan.
Mr. Modi also touched on the issues of Kashmir, economy, unemployment and farmers distress while taking frequent digs at rivals, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi whom he dubbed a “tubelight”.
The Congress was expected to be a responsible Opposition, but it had taken a wrong turn, he said.
Noting that the CAA was passed by Parliament and duly notified, he told Opposition parties that the road taken by them raises worries, a reference to anti-CAA protests and support to them by many anti-BJP parties.
What will happen if people refuse to accept a decision taken by the Rajasthan Assembly, stage dharnas and resort to arson, Mr. Modi said and gave a similar example of Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress is in power in the two States.
“What will then happen? Can the country run this way? This is road to anarchy… Such a way can put you (Opposition) in trouble as well. I am giving this warning as we all should be concerned about the country,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is due to your work that people have sent you there,” he said, referring to the Opposition benches. “Everybody has a right to put across their point of views but no good will come out of spreading lies and rumours. Respect the Constitution,” he added.
He hit back at the Congress over its charge that his government violated the Constitution. PM Modi said it should be the Party’s mantra to speak frequently about “saving Constitution” so that it remembers its sanctity.
The Congress government imposed the Emergency, curbed judiciary’s powers, spoke against people’s right to life and dismissed Opposition-run State governments frequently, he said. “We believe in the Constitution,” he added.
He also dubbed the National Advisory Council, a body set up during the UPA era to advise the Manmohan Singh government and headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as a “remote control” that enjoyed a “bigger role” than the Prime Minister.
Questioning if such a body was constitutional, Mr. Modi also recalled as to how Rahul Gandhi had torn a bill passed by the UPA government to attack the Congress.
Mr. Modi recited a verse to take a swipe at Opposition parties for their backing to anti-CAA protests and referred to their leaders making speeches there.
People associated with the Congress and the Left have been inciting people, he said.
Quoting Nehru, Mr. Modi said India’s first Prime Minister in a letter to the then Assam Chief Minister in 1950 had asked him to distinguish between Hindu refugees and Muslim migrants from Pakistan and said the law should be amended to grant citizenship to the refugees if required.
“This was not only Mahatma Gandhi’s but also Nehru’s sentiments. Was Pandit Nehru communal? Did he discriminate between Hindus and Muslims? Did he want Hindu rashtra?” Mr. Modi asked, asserting that several reports, including those of Parliamentary panels, had recommended a law such as the CAA.
He said the Congress is having problems when his government is taking decisions to fulfil wishes of the country’s “founding fathers”.
The Opposition has frequently accused the Modi government of pursuing communal politics, discriminating against Muslims and seeking to make India a Hindu rashtra.
The country would not have seen the real face of the Opposition if it had not made so much of noise against the law, he said.
Taking a swipe at Opposition members for invoking contributions of Muslims to India’s freedom struggle, he said they look at them as Muslims but they are Indians to his party.
The Prime Minister said that he in his youth had touched the feet of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and named other greats such as Ashfaqullah Khan, Begum Hazrat Mahal and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to assert that they were all Indians.
Describing Kashmir as “crown jewel” of India, he said his government has pushed development measures in Jammu and Kashmir and asserted that it had faith in the people of Valley.
Mr. Modi cited comments of Kashmir leaders Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, who had warned that any decision to nullify Article 370 may sever the Valley’s link with India, to ask if those who believe in India’s Constitution can tolerate these remarks.
Mr. Modi said Kashmir’s identity was buried on January 19, 1990, when Kashmiri Pandits started leaving the Valley due to militancy.
Elaborating on his government’s achievements, the Prime Minister said the people of the country have seen his government’s work between 2014 and 2019 and gave a bigger mandate in 2019.
PM Modi said India can no longer wait for problems to remain unsolved, and, rightfully so. “That is why, our aim is speed and scale, determination and decisiveness, sensitivity and solutions“.
Without naming Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Modi said, “I heard an Opposition MP saying ‘we will beat Modi with sticks in 6 months’ I have also decided I will do more ‘Surya Namaskar’.
This will make my back even stronger to face abuses. In any case, I have been abused so much for the last two decades that their negativity hardly matters.”
Referring to the Northeast, PM Modi said, “The Bodo Accord signed now is special because it has brought all stakeholders together and we are moving towards a more peaceful era. It has ushered in a new dawn.”