New Delhi: As spontaneous protests erupted across the country in opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act, several high ranking members of the cabinet chose to remain tight-lipped about the demonstrations which have so far claimed three lives and led to the detention of hundreds in Delhi and Bengaluru.
Prime Minister Modi maintained convenient silence on the protests that raged across several cities and instead tweeted about his meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the National Committee for Commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and principles give strength to the entire world. For us, Gandhi-150 is not merely a year long celebration. It inspires us to keep furthering the noble tenets of Gandhian philosophy, which have the potential to empower millions. pic.twitter.com/kdtL3s6yqE
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 19, 2019
The BJP’s official Twitter handle also tweeted a video of residents of Delhi who narrated the “horrors of riots during CAA protests”
A few days before, the Prime Minister at a rally in Dumka, Jharkhand ahead of the upcoming polls, had tried to paint the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in communal hues by suggesting that those who were protesting against the new Act could be “identified by their clothes”.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath told ANI that the government would “take strict action against such elements” and would “seize property of those found guilty”.
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath: I have called a meeting over this. You cant indulge in violence in name of protest. We will take strict action against such elements. Will seize property of those found guilty and compensate damage to public property. #CitizenshipAmendmentAct pic.twitter.com/6jxuXDLWDt
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) December 19, 2019
His remarks came after the Uttar Pradesh police claimed that violent demonstrations in different parts of the country against the amended citizenship law had prompted it to deny permission to hold protests in the state. It issued prohibitory orders in the entire state.
National joint secretary of the BJP Shivprakash tweeted that “violent opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act” had “incorporated anti-national forces into these protests”.
नागरिकता संशोधन कानून के हिंसक विरोध से ऐसा लगता है कि राष्ट्र विरोधी ताकतो का समावेश इन विरोध प्रदर्शनो में हो गया है l पत्थर फेंकना, ट्रेन को आग लगाना ,पटरी को उखाड़ना ,पुलिस पर हमला एवं हिंसक वृत्ति इसी बात के लक्षण है l#ISupportCAA
— Shivprakash (@shivprakashbjp) December 17, 2019
As protests over Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) deepened and more University campuses lent their weight behind it, the government has reached out to calm the frayed tempers, saying it has no problem in talking to those who have concerns but will not engage with politicians fanning it or “tukde tukde gang”.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the Congress and AAP were in favour of foreign infiltrators and claimed that “rumours are being spread over CAA and people are being misled.”
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We are ready to talk to the protestors and students. But we will not talk to tukde tukde gang and urban naxals, who pursue politics of violence. They will be dealt with as per law. Those who engage in violence will be dealt with accordingly.”
In the aftermath of the protests, Union minister Nitin Gadkari attempted to justify the grounds for enacting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 by saying that the law was necessary as no country in the world catered specifically to the need of the Hindus. “However, let me make it clear we will not allow any illegal foreigner to settle in the country. Our country is not a dharmshala. You say countries like US, UK are liberal…can anyone get citizenship in those countries easily?” Gadkari added.
A day after protests, Karnataka minister C.T. Ravi warned that a ‘Godhra-like’ situation could arise if the majority “loses patience”.
“Because the majority community here is patient, you are trying to put fire everywhere. I advice you to look back and see what happens when our patience runs out. Our patience is not weakness. We are also seeing how you are damaging public property and putting fire in the State,” Ravi said in response to former minister and Congress leader U.T. Khader’s statement that Karnataka would burn if the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was implemented.
On Thursday, Union home minister Amit Shah attended the 56th Anniversary Parade of the Sashastra Seema Bal.
A day before, Shah had tried to pin the blame for the protests on the Congress party and said, “One hundred per cent Congress is behind these protests.”
Union minister Smriti Irani asked state governments to “take the strictest action” against people who were supporting “violent elements”.
Union Minister Smriti Irani: #CitizenshipAmendmentAct does not take away the rights of any citizen of India. People who are providing support to violent elements, I appeal to the state governments to take the strictest action against them. pic.twitter.com/7JDBmLrZIH
— ANI (@ANI) December 20, 2019
Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa asked people in to “stay away from vested interests”.
Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa makes an appeal to people of the state, asking them to ‘stay away from vested interests indulging in rumour mongering&stoking passions to disturb peace&harmony of state…Let’s not pay heed to motivated rumours&tarnish peace loving image of Karnataka.’ pic.twitter.com/yNP66LVeSq
— ANI (@ANI) December 19, 2019
Among others who have commented on the protests are BJP’s ‘IT cell’ head Amit Malviya, who has speculated on the professional futures of the protesters and shared several inflammatory videos.