Hyderabad: The Congress supports the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam but is only against the manner in which the BJP is “using it as a tool to create mass hysteria and divide people”, party spokesperson and Supreme Court advocate Jaiveer Shergill said Friday.
Speaking at ThePrint’s Democracy Wall at NALSAR University, Hyderabad, Shergill pointed out that the NRC was the result of the efforts of previous Congress governments.
“The concept of NRC was brought in by the Rajiv Gandhi government,” Shergill said. “NRC updation was thought about by the Congress in 2005. The party’s government deported over 22,000 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants between 2013 and 2018, whereas the BJP has deported only 1800 Bangladeshi immigrants.”
The Congress, however, was in power in Assam only till 2016.
In conversation with ThePrint’s Rohini Swamy, Shergill further said, “Citizenship Amendment Bill read with NRC is a brutal encounter of the Constitution. The NRC should not become a Notorious Register of Confusion.”
Shergill also said the Congress’ loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections provided younger politicians like him to step up. “At a very selfish level, when the chips are down, it is the best time for a youth politician,” Shergill said, reacting to a question on whether there are any chances of the Congress’ revival. “The toughest sparring brings the best out of you, so if any young person is thinking of joining politics, my advice to them would be to join the one that is going through the toughest time.”
Democracy Wall is a free-speech campus initiative, the latest edition of which was held at NALSAR University in Hyderabad Friday. Actor Shweta Tripathi, journalist Pamposh Raina and ThePrint’s editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta were also part of the event.
India on its way to become an ‘illiberal democracy’
Shergill said democracy is not all-weather proof and that in the last couple of decades, several democracies have collapsed into “illiberal democracies”.
“People who write a letter to the PM have FIRs against them, while the people who call Godse patriotic are in Parliament — this is the sign of an illiberal democracy,” Shergill said referring to the FIR against the 49 eminent personalities for writing a letter to the PM against lynching.
“In an illiberal democracy, people are under the illusion that they have been given the Constitution, but they are not allowed to practice the rights guaranteed in the Constitution,” he said. adding that India’s democracy isn’t fully jolted yet, but it is the duty of every citizen to safeguard it.
Rahul Gandhi being made a ‘punching bag’
On the subject of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation from the post of Congress president, Shergill said Gandhi would support any other leader that the party chooses as president.
“Rahul Gandhi has led by example by showing what it means to be an accountable leader,” he said. “Personally, I would love to have him as my leader, but he is the kind of person who has no attachment to materialistic gains and positions. He will support whoever emerges as the next leader.”
Shergill said people love to make a punching bag out of Gandhi, no matter what he says or does.
“I often joke with him that people should release a punching bag in his name,” Shergill said. “If he goes to a temple, then it’s a problem. If he doesn’t, then it’s a problem. If he doesn’t resign, then he’s criticised, and now that he has resigned, he is still criticised.”
“This obsession with Rahul Gandhi should be lowered,” he added.
Reacting to accusations of infighting in the party, Shergill said all criticism is welcome, unless motivated by vested interests.
“Even I wanted a ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but wasn’t given one,” he said. “If my party wants me to fight for a municipal corporation election tomorrow, I happily will. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
‘Courts need to show a spine’
Shergill was highly critical of the Indian judiciary and said “predictability and consistency are the hallmarks of judicial decisions, not the political atmosphere”.
Hitting out at the delay in court hearings, Shergill said, “The Supreme Court has the time to fix the cricketing system of the country but doesn’t have the time to hear petitions against abrogation of Article 370.”
Shergill cited “the opacity in appointments of judges and the non-accountability that comes from judiciary being outside the purview of the RTI” as the major problems with the legal system.
“What goes on in the cosy club of the 5 (judges) — no one knows,” he added.