Mumbai: The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been misunderstood, and there is no need to be scared of this law, Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has said.
In a departure from the party’s earlier stand that the law could lead to an “invisible partition” of Hindus and Muslims in India, Thackeray has now said there are still fears about the CAA because it has not been properly debated.
In an exclusive video interview to Sena mouthpiece Saamana, which was published Wednesday, the CM also said he is convinced that no one will be thrown out of the country because of the new citizenship law. He said the Shiv Sena will support the CAA, and that it’s not “a draconian law”.
Thackeray, however, said the party is opposed to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that will also “affect the Hindus”.
In his interview to Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP and Saamana executive editor Sanjay Raut, he categorically ruled out implementation of NRC in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena flip-flops on CAA
The Shiv Sena has since December last year frequently changed its stand on the CAA.
Just before the Citizenship Amendment Bill was to be tabled in Parliament, Raut in an editorial in Saamana was excessively critical of the Narendra Modi government’s push to pass the law. “It looks like the Centre has made an invisible partition of Hindus and Muslims over the bill,” he said.
During the debate on the bill in Parliament, the Shiv Sena had made similar arguments and also questioned the selective acceptance of Hindu illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying these immigrants will act as a trigger for a religious war in India.
The party, however, supported the bill in the Lok Sabha in the “interest of the nation”.
Later, the Sena made a turnaround, and said it won’t support the contentious bill in the Rajya Sabha unless the Modi government incorporates changes it has asked for. It eventually walked out of the Upper House when the bill was tabled.
Sena was then already a part of the alliance government in Maharashtra with the Congress and the NCP. Seeking to differentiate between its national interest and that for Maharashtra, party MP Arvind Sawant had pointed out that the Common Minimum Programme with the Congress and the NCP was effective only in Maharashtra.
The CMP between these three parties states that the alliance partners will work together to uphold the secular values enshrined in the Constitution of India. Both the Congress and the NCP have stated their stand against the CAA and the NRC.
In January, the Sena skipped the meeting of opposition parties called by the Congress to discuss CAA, blaming “miscommunication”. Soon after the meeting, the party said CAA in its current form would not be implemented in Maharashtra.
Days later, there were talks that the Maharashtra assembly, like Kerala, Punjab and West Bengal, would also pass a resolution against the amended citizenship law. It, however, did not. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had then said the government was on the opinion that there should be no problem for anyone in the state due to CAA and NRC.
‘NRC will affect Hindus as much as Muslims’
In the Saamana interview published Wednesday, Thackeray said NRC will affect the Hindus as much as it will affect the Muslims, and will lead to irreversible repercussions.
“Why is the Centre not revealing the number of Hindu immigrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan whom they are planning to give citizenship?” Thackeray asked. He said the central government has to be clear on the areas they intend to have settlements for these immigrants. “Entire Kashmir is nearly empty, so will these immigrants be settled there?”
The CM said his late father and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had always been opposed to Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants.
The interview also sought to clarify that NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who stitched together the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra, does not hold any remote control but is a mentor. A former critic of Pawar, the chief minister said he seeks advice from Pawar on various issues since the former chief minister is “well versed with the pulse of Maharashtra”.
Ever since the MVA government was formed, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and former president Rahul Gandhi have held much importance for the Thackerays. While son and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray has met Rahul twice to apprise him of the happenings in Maharashtra, the chief minister is also expected to meet Sonia Gandhi soon.