Congress leader Jairam Ramesh

The Congress on Monday reaffirmed that it will “strongly” and “firmly” oppose contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) intends to introduce in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.

“The proposed amendment is an attempt to divide the Indian society which violates Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution. CAB is anti-secular and anti-constitutional since it is against the preamble of the Constitution,” Congress Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh told journalists in Shillong on November 4.

He said the Congress is reaching out to other political parties for their support against the CAB.

Ramesh is leading Congress delegation to four Northeast states — Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura — to gather opinions of people and party leaders on the CAB and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The delegation will submit its report to the interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Ramesh claimed that BJP has suffered a “setback” in the just-concluded elections in Maharashtra and Haryana because of Article 370, CAB and NRC.

“BJP should learn their lessons as they went to the polls on Article 370, CAB and NRC but people’s worries and concerns were different. But if they persist, which I think they will because that is in their DNA, we will continue to oppose,” he said.

Accusing the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of polarising and dividing India through the NRC and CAB on communal religious lines, Ramesh said, “CAB is an RSS and BJP project to divide India on religious lines. We will fight against it because this is anti-constitution and it will change the real nature of India.”

“The civil society, political leaders and political parties of the northeastern states had strongly opposed the CAB. A political consensus is required before we jump into NRC outside Assam.

“NRC is also an instrument of the BJP and RSS to divide and polarise Indian society. We will not allow India to become a haven for illegal immigration,” the veteran Congress leader said.

He added: “Political parties usually take a political stand but the Congress is taking a principle stand on the CAB because it is destroying the very basis of the Indian constitution and making religion the basis of citizenship and this is one thing Ambedkar warned us against, Gandhi warned us against.”

“It is ironic that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be speaking on the occasion of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the draft of the Constitution on November 26 and at the same time he is pushing a bill, which is destroying the very constitution. This is double standard and double face but we will do what we have to do,” he added.

The bill seeks to fast-track Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Jains from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India till December 31, 2014.

The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, lapsed in February, after it was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha following protest by several NDA allies and other social organisations in the Northeast states.

Stating that his party is not against the principles of the NRC to identify illegal migrants but against the way it has been executed and the problem inherent in the implementation, Ramesh said, “There have been untold sufferings to genuine Indian citizens. What are these detention centres we are building? As an Indian, I find it shameful. Let us understand what the end result of this NRC is going to be.”

Moreover, he said that NRC in Assam was historical legacy and was part of the Assam Peace Accord.

Moreover, he said that political climate needs to be created to ensure that the NRC does not become an instrument of harassment and that people should not have fear of intimidation because of NRC.

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