Protests Across Odisha Over Delhi Riots, Amit Shah Blames Opposition for Violence

Effigies of the Union home minister were burnt as he touched down on the Odisha capital for the Eastern Zonal Council meeting.

Bhubaneswar: Even as Congress leaders on Friday burnt effigies of Union home minister Amit Shah in the Odisha capital and other parts of the state for his alleged inaction in containing the Delhi riots, the latter hit out at the Opposition for ‘misleading’ the people of the country on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and fomenting violence.

“Opposition leaders are spreading misinformation [about CAA], they are instigating people and fomenting riots,” Shah told a pro-CAA rally at the Janata Maidan here soon after chairing the 24th Eastern Zonal Council meeting attended by the chief ministers of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal at the Lok Seva Bhavan.

Addressing his first public meeting since the riots broke out in Delhi and since the opposition stepped up the demand for his resignation, the home minister said CAA was being opposed by Congress, the communists, BSP, Samajwadi Party and West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee.

“They are opposing it saying that it will take away the citizenship rights of minorities. But why are all of them telling such lies? I assure you that not a single Muslim or member of minority community will lose their citizenship because of CAA. It is a law for conferring citizenship, not taking it away.”

Shah, who did not make any direct reference to the riots in Delhi, challenged the opposition leaders to point out which clause of CAA talked about snatching away the citizenship of minorities.

Instead, he said, the Act was meant to confer citizenship on the persecuted minority community members fleeing countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. “Should we not do this?” asked the home minister while warning people not to be “misled by the false propaganda of the opposition.”

However, Congress activists, who held protests all over the state, mocked Shah for trying to grab the moral high ground on CAA and demanded his resignation.

“The man responsible for Gujarat communal violence has now unleashed violence across the country. While talking of Gujarat model of development they are actually spreading Gujarat kind of communal violence in the country,” said senior Congress leader, Rashmi Mohapatra.

Former Congress MLA Lalatendu Mohapatra even took aim at Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik for siding with BJP on the issue of CAA and said his party was determined to intensify agitation over the issue. “For us the main issue is protecting the secular fabric of the country,” he said.

Shah, who expectedly desisted from criticising the Naveen Patnaik government while asking Odisha chief minister to implement central schemes properly, heaped praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking the step of diluting Article 370 and constituting a trust that will pave the way for the construction of a temple at Ayodhya.

Earlier on Saturday, Shah presided over the crucial meeting of the 24th Eastern Zonal Council (EZC) that was hosted by chief minister Naveen Patnaik and attended by his Bihar and West Bengal counterparts, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee. Jharkhand was represented at the meeting by its finance minister, Rameshwar Oram.

Sources said Banerjee raised the issue of violence in Delhi at the beginning of the meeting and underscored the urgent need for restoring normality and providing succour to the affected families. Expressing concern over the killings in the national capital she later said that it was Centre’s responsibility to ensure peace and harmony in the country.

Putting speculation at rest, Banerjee said there was no discussion at the meeting over contentious issues like National Register of Citizenship (NRC), National Population Register (NPR) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). These were not discussed as they were not on the agenda, she said. The issue of law and order, too, did not figure.

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The chief ministers, however, raised several key demands like revision of coal royalty, timely payment of GSP compensation and increasing tele-density in states like Odisha. Patnaik sought special focus state status for Odisha “Taking the frequency of natural disasters faced by Odisha into consideration, “vulnerability to natural calamity” should be taken as a criteria to declare Odisha as a Special Focus State,” he said.

The chief minister also demanded a Special Economic package for expeditious implementation of Infrastructural Development of Odisha while making a general plea for the growth of country’s eastern region. “If a nationwide analysis is done for tele-density, banking density, rail, and road density, East Zone would be at the bottom in all these subjects that are in the Union List. There is a need to double the allotments made to this region so that they catch up with the national benchmarks,” said Patnaik.

Patnaik, who has been coming close to the central BJP leadership since the results of the last elections were announced, also demanded revision of coal royalty pending since 2012, release of grants to Urban Local Bodies, the release of subsidy of paddy procurement and speeding of railway projects.

Ruling Biju Janata Dal general secretary Bijay Nayak said, “All the demands made by the chief minister are justified and should be conceded. The Centre is not going to do us any favour. It is our right. And all this talk of BJD coming close to BJP is bunkum. We are adversaries in state politics.”

Former BJP MLA, Pradeep Purohit agreed that his party and BJD were rivals and there was no room for compromise between them. “We are preparing sincerely for the 2024 elections when we are confident of forming a BJP government in the state. Even Mr. Shah has talked about a big jump which will take us to power,” he said.