CAA maelstrom

Protests by students, Cong put Centre on the defensive

CAA maelstrom

INitially confined to ‘faraway’ Assam and Meghalaya, the conflagration triggered by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is now scorching the locus of power, New Delhi. The NDA government finds itself on the back foot as Congress leaders led by out-of-hibernation Priyanka Gandhi Vadra held a dharna at the India Gate on Monday in solidarity with students protesting against the legislation. The apparent revival of a moribund Opposition seems to have knocked the wind out of the ruling party’s sails.

From the outset, the law offering Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities who had faced persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan had a communal ring to it. The protests in the Capital have laid bare the Act’s divisive premise and the government’s unwillingness to do course correction. On Sunday, about 1,500-odd protesters torched four public buses and two police vehicles during clashes with cops near Jamia Millia Islamia in south Delhi. Subsequently, the police entered the Jamia campus — without taking permission from the university authorities. The purported provocation was the hurling of stones from inside the premises. The cops allegedly beat up staff members and students and also used teargas in the library. A high-level inquiry is needed not only to probe the allegations of police highhandedness but also to identify the persons who damaged public property.

PM Narendra Modi has appealed for calm and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has invoked ‘non-violent satyagraha’, even as the Supreme Court has said that it should be ensured that there is no rioting before the Bench hears matters related to the violence at Jamia and the disturbances at Aligarh Muslim University. The BJP top brass has been asserting that the citizenship law is not discriminatory against Muslims or any other community, but these efforts — half-hearted at best — have failed to cool frayed tempers. In an afterthought, the ruling party has announced a nationwide campaign to spread awareness about the legislation. The BJP claims that the enactment of the Act has stopped the ‘business of appeasement’ practised by some political parties. However, the party is itself finding it hard to fend off the charge of polarising certain communities through the CAA.

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