NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday joined BJP’s spirited response to the aggressive anti-CAA agitation by seeking to uncouple the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) with changes in the Citizenship Act, and launched a ferocious attack on Congress and its allies for inflaming passions by spreading “rumours and lies”.Addressing a massive gathering to kick off BJP’s campaign for the forthcoming assembly polls in Delhi, PM Modi sought to allay fears that his government would implement NRC to derecognise Muslims as citizens and evict them.Calling the allegation an “evil lie” being spread to cause havoc in the country, the PM said, “NRC has not been brought before Parliament. It has not been discussed in the cabinet. I can assure 130 crore Indians that since 2014, when our government was formed, the term NRC has not figured in any discussion in the government.The NRC that has been implemented is limited to Assam and had to be done because of the Supreme Court that came when Congress was in power. Were they asleep?”
Modi’s speech at once marked an outreach to Muslims, a defence of CAA and an onslaught on the urban educated elite, whom he derided as “urban Naxals”.Modi didn’t rule out NRC. He drew a distinction between “refugees” who came to India because of religious persecution in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries and “infiltrators”. There were enough hints in his 100-minute speech that the promise of non-discrimination was meant only for Indian Muslims “whose ancestors were the offspring of mother India”.Protests against CAA engineered by rivals: PM ModiYet, his remarks seemed to be at variance with home minister Amit Shah’s recent assertion in Parliament about the imminence of a countrywide NRC.NRC and CAA constituted a huge chunk of the speech, another trademark oratorical performance that covered all the bases. Even as the PM dwelt on NRC, the core ingredient of Muslim restiveness, he struck a defiant note on the controversial changes in the Citizenship Act. He said CAA was meant to fulfil the promise made by Gandhiji and others to provide shelter to Hindus and Sikhs who faced religious persecution in Pakistan.“I want to ask Congress and their allies what have they got against those who have escaped to India to save their faith and their women and daughters from being forcibly abducted and converted and married against their will?” he asked.Modi mocked the declarations of opposition CMs that they would not implement CAA by saying they were not empowered to block its implementation. He debunked as false propaganda the claim of some opposition parties that the new Citizenship Act would open the floodgates for refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.Significantly, the PM made a specific mention of Dalit leaders like Bhim Army’s Chandrashekhar Azad for opposing CAA. “I pity them. I wish they had taken care to realise that many of the beneficiaries are Dalits who came here because of the discrimination they had to endure. It is a pity that an opportunity to shame Pakistan globally for its treatment of religious minorities has been frittered away for partisan political expediency,” he said.The PM hit out at the section of city-bred educated whom he derisively dubbed “urban Naxals” to lusty applause from the crowd , saying the protests against CAA was engineered as part of the relentless opposition he has faced from those who remain unreconciled to him becoming PM. “They were surprised when I won in 2014 and campaigned against me through my first tenure. They are shocked that I have returned with a bigger majority and they have been campaigning against me from day one,” he said.The speech was remarkable also for the solidarity he expressed with policemen who have been targeted during anti-CAA protests as he chastised Congress and its allies for indulging those who have turned cities into “anarchy” and not condemning destruction of property, both public and private, and targeting of innocent civilians. “They are only collateral victims, I am the real target. But why go after the poor, the small shopkeeper and the auto driver. You can put up my effigy and burn it but why target poor people,” he said.While he targeted all opponents, Congress and the urban educated elite or “urban Naxals” bore the brunt of the hard-hitting political oratory. “Those who sought to define the country’s past as well as what trajectory it should take in future are at loss when they have been repudiated by the people. They are resorting to all tricks to stage a comeback,” he said. Modi took pains to emphasise that he had never discriminated among people on the grounds of faith or caste. “Under the Ujjwala scheme, more than 8 crore people have got gas connections. Another I. 5 crore have got houses under the subsidised housing scheme. But I never asked whether you go to temple, mosque, gurdwara or church,” he said. The PM said when his government decided to regularise unauthorised colonies, it did not bother about the religious denomination of the beneficiaries. As part of the outreach to Muslims, Modi referred to the decorations he has received from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations.