Modi unites the opposition against new citizenship law

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NEW DELHI: Angered by the brutal police action in Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University on Sunday, students hit the streets in Chennai, Puducherry, Hydera­bad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kolkata, and Guwahati in solidarity, even as political leaders held rallies and dharnas against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) on Monday, reports said.

In a rare moment for Kerala, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) joined hands with the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) to protest against the CAA, while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed a massive rally in Kolkata.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra led a dharna at India Gate in the capital, condemning the Modi government for bringing the CAA and attacking innocent students of Jamia Millia. “An attack on students is an attack on the soul of India,” she said.

Speaking at the Kolkata rally, Ms. Banerjee said, “As long as I am alive, I will never implement the citizenship law or NRC in the state. You can very well dismiss my government or put me behind bars but I will never implement this black law. We will continue to protest democratically until this law is scrapped. If they want to implement it in Bengal, they will have to do it over my dead body.”

In Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated that the Centre had perverted the original CAA by introducing a communally polarising amendment that discriminated against Muslims. He added that Kerala, with its distinctive secular character, would lead widespread resistance to the Centre’s move to undermine the secular foundation of the constitution.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear on Tuesday (today) pleas alleging police atrocities on students holding protests against the Act at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia. The court said, however, it would not hear this issue in an atmosphere of violence. “The only thing we want is that the violence must stop,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde.

Speaking at a joint opposition press conference, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury demanded an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the Jamia incident. “Whoever gave the permission for the police to enter the Jamia campus should be brought to book and punished,” he said.

Mr. Yechury said it was not a Hindu-Muslim issue and could not be linked to religion, and asked the people not to fall prey to rumors as the Act was an affront to the constitution.

“It is the ruling party and the government of India which are behind the violence. Had the government not brought in this law, there would not have been such violence. The prime minister, home minister and the cabinet are responsible for this violence,” Mr. Yechury alleged.

Monday also saw leaders of the All Assam Students’ Union and scores of others court arrest during a mass satyagraha against the CAA in Guwahati. Officials said the protesters were released soon after the token arrest.

Expressing solidarity with the students of Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, over 600 students and faculty members from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, took out a rally from their campus. The students raised slogans demanding accountability from the Central government, a rollback of the citizenship law, and a stop to attempts to divide the country on religious grounds.

As unrest spread across various Indian states against the new citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday termed the protests “unfortunate and deeply distressing” and appealed to people to stay away from rumor-mongers and not let “vested interests” divide society.

In a series of tweets, he said the CAA did not affect any Indian of any religion. “No Indian has anything to worry regarding this Act. This Act is only for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no other place to go except India.”

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