GUWAHATI, Jan 21 - The Citizenship (Amendment) Act-2019 (CAA) not only violates the Assam Accord but it is also a part of the ruling BJP’s larger game plan to divert attention of the Indian public from matters like economic slowdown, growing unemployment, agrarian distress and rising inflation, said Deputy Leader of the Congress party in Rajya Sabha and former Union Minister Anand Sharma.
Addressing a press conference here today, Sharma said CAA breaches provisions of the Assam Accord. “The Assam Accord has to be honoured in letter and spirit... We hope the Supreme Court of India, which has to start hearing this matter from tomorrow, will uphold the Indian Constitution, protect the basic structure of the Constitution and declare the CAA as unconstitutional at the earliest to save the country any further pain or turmoil,” he said.
He termed the CAA a totally “unnecessary” law, adding that there were already “enough provisions in the Constitution and enough power with the Government of India” under the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship to people from other countries.
He said lakhs of Tamils of Indian origin from Sri Lanka and people of Indian origin who had been expelled by the Idi Amin regime from Uganda were in the past granted citizenship under the Citizenship Act-1955. “Today, there was no such situation requiring amendment to the Citizenship Act and that also with a cut-off date of 2014. They (BJP government) did not take into account the sentiments of the people of Assam. The Assam Accord clearly mentions March 25, 1971, as the cut-off... So what was the need for the CAA? They have no answer to that,” said Sharma.
He claimed that CAA is against the basic structure of the Constitution. “... the CAA is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of India. It fails the constitutionality test. It fails the morality test. It has created a feeling of insecurity and fear throughout the country. It has plunged Assam and Northeastern India in turmoil...,” said Sharma.
Regarding recent comments by some senior BJP leaders on the cut-off date mentioned in the Assam Accord, Sharma said, “Read the Accord. I challenge those who are saying different things, including the Chief Minister (of Assam) and his senior ministers. March 1971 is the cut-off date. Now they have brought it to 2014. Where was the need to have a situation where curfew had to be imposed? Police resorted to firing, not only in Guwahati but in many other parts of the country. Dozens have been killed in various states.”
He said that the Narendra Modi government has failed on all fronts and alleged that the BJP is now seeking to divert attention of the masses from issues of bread and butter by resorting to divisive politics by means of the CAA and other such controversial topics.
Sharma said the Modi government has pushed India back by 20 years through its various wrong policies and decisions. “Narendra Modi will go down in history as a Prime Minister who ruined India’s strong economy and dented India’s credibility as a constitutional democracy and who is responsible for creating unprecedented fear and insecurity in the minds of the people. The BJP government’s tenure will be remembered as a dark chapter in independent India’s history... The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are clueless about handling the Indian economy which was the fastest growing economy. Today the nominal GDP growth has collapsed and fallen to a 45-year low and the unemployment rate is at a 45-year high,” he said.
Asked if state governments and legislatures have right to go against a Central law like CAA as has been done by Punjab and Kerala, Sharma said, “The states, under Article 131 of the Constitution, can oppose and challenge an Act which they consider as unconstitutional... It is their constitutional right. If something unconstitutional is imposed the states can challenge in the Supreme Court and that is what the states have done. They are very much within their constitutional powers. India is a Union of States.”