Five recalcitrant states and the Centre appeared on a collision path over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Friday, even as it was signed into law amid continuing protests in the North East.
Taking a strong political stance, the chief ministers of five opposition-ruled states refused to implement the law against the backdrop of President Ram Nath Kovind giving his assent to the bill.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been vociferous in her opposition to the law, has announced a mega-rally over the issue in Kolkata on Monday.
Home minister Amit Shah cancelled a visit to Shillong, where he was to preside over the passing out parade of the North Eastern Police Academy (NEPA) , as a fourth day of protests flared in Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya.
More than 20 columns of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles have been deployed across Assam. According to Press Trust of India news agency, two people were shot dead on Thursday. The state police denied shooting at any protestors.
In another significant development on Friday, a series of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court appealing for a review of the law. Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker Mahua Moitra, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, advocate Ehtesham Hashmi, Peace Party president Mohammad Ayub, NGO Rihaai Manch and Citizens Against Hate, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Deb Mukherjee were among those who filed petitions challenging the law on the grounds that it was discriminatory and violative of fundamental rights.
Opposition chief ministers stepped up the political heat over the law. Apart from Banerjee, chief ministers Amarinder Singh of Punjab, Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh and Kamal Nath of Madhya Pradesh said they would oppose the implementation of the law in their respective states.
“Any law that breaks the country, Congress has never accepted it. Madhya Pradesh government’s stand will be in line with what the Congress party decides," Kamal Nath said. “There is nothing federal about this. Did any meeting with chief ministers happen before rolling this out?"
A home ministry official familiar with matter, however, said that since it is a central law the states will have no option but to implement it. States were “required to implement it since it is a central law", the official said on condition of anonymity. Protests against the law also gripped the national capital on Friday when protestors clashed with police personnel in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University.
The law, which accords citizenship to non-Muslims fleeing religious persecution in three Muslim countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan—has been criticized as discriminatory against Muslims. Rajya Sabha, too, saw acrimonious scenes with the Congress, TMC, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) and other Opposition parties demanding that the Union government come out with an official statement over the situation in the North East. Deputy leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma demanded that the Prime Minister should “immediately" convene an all-party meeting to discuss the law and order situation in the region.
On Friday, the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, which was to be held in Guwahati during 15-17 December, was cancelled in the wake of the massive protests in the city. On Thursday, Bangladeshi foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled a three-day visit to India.
Japnam K. Bindra and Shaswati Das contributed to this story.