Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Monday said that the BJP didn’t have the courage to talk about the controversial citizenship law in Assam, ahead of Assembly elections in the state.
“They talk about CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) all over the country but, when they come to Assam, they don’t have the courage to talk about it,” Ms Gandhi Vadra, in the northeastern state to campaign for her party ahead of polls, told reporters in upper Assam’s Biswanath district.
This is the Congress General Secretary’s first visit since poll dates were announced last week. Assam will vote over three phases starting March 27, with results due on May 2.
The citizenship law was passed in December 2019 amid unprecedented chaos in parliament and violent protests across the country. In Assam five people died and dozens were injured in protests that were followed by a curfew in Guwahati and suspension of internet services in several districts.
The contentious law makes, for the first time, religion a test of citizenship.
The centre says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries become citizens if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it violates secular tenets of the Constitution and discriminates against Muslims.
Many in Assam, which has a porous border with Bangladesh (one of the countries named in the law) were unhappy, pointing out that the state had already accepted refugees till 1971, and feared loss of culture and jobs if this were to continue.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, during a visit to neighbouring Bengal (which also votes this month) reiterated that measures to implement the bill would be drafted after the coronavirus vaccination drive – which began January 16 and is now in its second phase – is over.
However, both Mr Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi – each of whom has made multiple visits to Assam to campaign for the BJP – made no mention of the CAA in the state.
“Assam’s people are smart and they see through the lies. I believe they will vote for those who will uplift this place’s identify and tradition,” Ms Gandhi Vadra, who is on a two-day visit to the state to launch her party’s campaign said.