New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said there has been no discussion on implementing a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India, even as he clarified that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, would not affect Muslims who have been living in the country for generations.

At a public meeting in Delhi, Modi blamed the Congress, other opposition parties and so-called urban Naxals for creating fear in the minds of people, especially Muslims. “Muslims of India, who have lived in this country for several generations, will not be affected by CAA or NRC," Modi said.

This is the first time the Prime Minister has publicly spoken on the controversial CAA and the proposed NRC that seeks to identify illegal migrants. Many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including home minister Amit Shah, have repeatedly said NRC would be implemented in the country before Modi’s second term as prime minister ends in 2024.

The Prime Minister’s clarification comes more than a week after a wave of protests swept across India following Parliament’s approval of the controversial citizenship law. People, especially students, took to the streets to oppose what they claimed was an attempt by the government to chip away at India’s secular political framework and create fear among the country’s Muslims.

The government responded to the protests by restricting gatherings, shutting down internet in many areas and shooting and beating protesters to disperse them. As many as 16 people were killed in protests in Uttar Pradesh alone.

Launching BJP’s campaign for the assembly elections in Delhi, expected to be held in January, Modi said there was an attempt to create fear in the minds of Muslims that they would lose land rights and be sent to detention centres. “There are no detention centres in the country," Modi said.

Bringing a nationwide NRC was not even discussed in Parliament or the Union cabinet and it was brought in Assam because of the directions of Supreme Court, he said. “We have to identify the people who are spreading these lies. The Congress has indulged in vote-bank politics for decades. It is an attempt to divide the people of the country," he said.

Modi challenged opposition parties to prove allegations that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was working in a discriminatory manner. He said none of the government schemes such as Ujjwala, housing for poor and the scheme for free electricity connection differentiated between people on the basis of caste or religion.

“The government has never asked people if they pray at a temple, mosque, gurdwara or church before providing benefits of different schemes to them. Muslims are being instigated by opposition parties. We have never asked the poor to give us documents. Why is the Congress lying to the people of the country," asked Modi.

The Prime Minister also asked chief ministers to first check with legal experts if NRC can be implemented in the country before talking about it. “Some chief ministers have also said that NRC will not get implemented in their states. At least check with legal experts before making such statements," he said.

The BJP-led ruling alliance has come under severe criticism from its alliance partners and like-minded parties. Many of them said they would not support implementation of NRC in the country. Some of the key alliance partners of the BJP, including the Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Dal (United) and Asom Gana Parishad have opposed the move. Biju Janata Dal, which had supported CAA in Parliament, has made it clear that it would not carry out NRC in Odisha where it runs the government.

Modi targeted West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during the rally on Sunday. Banerjee had talked about going to the UN because she is scared of the people of West Bengal, he said.

Modi also asked protesters to read the citizenship law to understand what the Act is about and not be misguided by political parties spreading falsehoods. The Prime Minister said he would work for unity, peace and harmony in India.

Protesters should eschew violence and not attack policemen who are doing their job. “Should we not respect our police who try to help us whenever we are in need? Attacking policemen will only create problems for us. Police helps us when we need help the most and whenever we are in trouble," said Modi.

The Prime Minster said CAA was passed in Parliament and people should respect it. He said Congress and other opposition parties were indulging in a conspiracy not just to defame the country in the international arena but also to create law and order problems in India.

“These people can hate Modi, burn my effigies, oppose me as much as you want, but do not destroy public property. Take out your anger on me, why attack poor autorickshaw drivers, destroy buses and shops," he asked.

Earlier in the day, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took on the government. “Dear Youth of India, Modi and Shah have destroyed your future. They can’t face your anger over the lack of jobs and damage they’ve done to the economy. That’s why they are dividing our beloved India and hiding behind hate. We can only defeat them by responding with love towards every Indian," Gandhi wrote on Twitter.

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