Cannot be bullied, violence must stop: Supreme Court on CAA, NRC protests

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee leads a rally on Monday in Kolkata to protest the Citizenship Act. Photo: PTI
Countrywide protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) spread to nearly two dozen university campuses on Monday. The student protests were largely peaceful. However, stray incidents of violence were reported from Mau in Uttar Pradesh. Incidents of violence were also reported from several districts of West Bengal. Students found support not just from opposition parties, but also people from others walks of life, including the film industry.

‘542,000 people will benefit in Assam, and not crores’

The Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tried to allay fears of people in Assam by assuring that refugees will not be given citizenship automatically, but only after fulfilling the necessary criteria. BJP ruled Assam’s finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said a maximum of 542,000 people will benefit from the amended CAA in Assam, and not crores as is “rumoured”.

Opposition demands probe into Jamia incident

Opposition parties condemned the “brutal” Sunday night police action in the national capital’s Jamia Millia University and demanded a judicial probe. They also appealed for non-violent protests. The Left parties asked others to join the nationwide protests on Thursday. Thousands of students of leading universities across several cities marched to express solidarity with students of Jamia Millia.

SC to hear pleas on Tuesday and Wednesday

The Supreme Court (SC) agreed to hear on Tuesday pleas which have alleged police atrocities on students holding protests at the Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia University. A Bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde on Monday also took serious note of the rioting and destruction of public property during protests against the Act and said this must stop immediately. The SC said it will hear on December 18 a batch of pleas, including those by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and royal scion of Tripura Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman, challenging the constitutional validity of the CAA.

Stay away from any sort of rumour mongering: PM

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to people to “maintain peace, unity and brotherhood”. “It is my appeal to everyone to stay away from any sort of rumour mongering and falsehoods," he said. The PM said he wants to "unequivocally assure my fellow Indians that CAA does not affect any citizen of India of any religion. No Indian has anything to worry regarding this Act."

Union Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah tweeted that CAA “is not to take away citizenship of any Indian.” “Some parties are spreading rumours and inciting violence for their political interest. I request students to go through the CAA once and not fall in their trap," Shah said.

West Bengal stops work on National Population Register

However, states ruled by non-BJP parties and the Centre looked headed for a showdown. In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led a huge rally against the CAA and her government stopped work on the National Population Register (NPR), a precursor to the NRC.

Banerjee and her government also had a war of words with Bengal Govenor Jagdeep Dhankhar. She said CAA and NRC can be enforced in the state only over her “dead body”. In Kerala, the CPI (M)-led ruling Left Democratic Front and opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front have jointly protested against the CAA.

Priyanka takes to the streets 

In the national capital, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra led her party’s top leadership to sit on a protest at the India Gate, appealing to all citizens to oppose the “anti-constitutional” CAA. 

Internet services continued to remain suspended in six districts of the state — Malda, Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and parts of South 24 Parganas districts — where violent protests over the amended Act have thrown normal life into disarray. Incidents of violence, loot and arson were also reported from Nadia and Birbhum districts.

Students of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and others also took to the streets to protest.

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