Kerala Governor Backs Down, Reads CAA Criticism in Govt Speech With Proviso

In the contentious paragraph 18 of a policy speech, the Kerala government held that religion should not be a criterion for citizenship.

New Delhi: Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan read out a paragraph criticising the Citizenship (Amendment) Act during a policy speech on Wednesday in the state assembly.

After speculation that the Kerala governor would not read out the contentious paragraph, Khan took the assembly by surprise when he read out the portion after clarifying his reservations against it, indicating that Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had prevailed in the ongoing tussle between the two.

“The chief minister wants me to read this although I hold the view that this does not come under the definition of policy or programme. The honourable chief minister has himself said in his letter that this is the view of the government. To honour his wish I am going to read this paragraph,” Arif Mohammed Khan said.

In the paragraph, the Kerala government held that religion should not be a criterion for citizenship.

Also read: At History Congress, Irfan Habib Leads Dissent Against Kerala Governor’s Defence of CAA

“Our citizenship can never be on the basis of religion as this goes against the grain of secularism, which is part of the basic structure of our constitution. Our constitutional values have to be protected in their form and content. The former devoid of the latter will make out democracy an empty shell, which, I hope, will not be allowed by the people of India,” the address said.

The governor has been a vocal critic of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Kerala government’s decision to pass a resolution demanding the scrapping of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the subsequent decision by the state government to file a suit against the Union government in the Supreme Court, challenging the validity of CAA.

Former Lok Sabha secretary general P.D.T. Achary told the Hindustan Times, that the governor, who is the head of a state, is bound to read out the speech approved by the government. “He is not responsible for the contents of the speech and this is a practice prevailing in various democracies where parliamentary system is present,” Achary said.

As Khan read out the contentious portion, members of the ruling alliance thumped their desks while the entire opposition, barring the lone BJP member, had been evicted by the house marshals for refusing to let the proceedings begin.

The Congress-led opposition MLAs had earlier blocked the governor’s path as he arrived at the state assembly on Wednesday morning, and demanded that he be recalled, according to a report in India Today. The Opposition United Democratic Front MLAs held placards that said “Call Back Governor” and “We the People [of] India Resist CAA” while blocking his path to the podium.

Khan allegedly changed his mind after a letter from chief minister Vijayan argued that it was the duty of the governor to read out the entire speech which outlined the state government’s policy for the upcoming financial year, reported The Telegraph.

Also read: As States Battle Centre on CAA, a Guide to the Issues Before the Supreme Court

“The governor had until yesterday said he would not read Paragraph 18. But now he has read it, revealing the partnership between him and the chief minister,” leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala alleged.

The policy address also expressed concern about the economic slowdown and the fiscal conservatism being practised by the Centre.

Additionally, against the backdrop of increasing protests against the CAA and the position adopted by Khan, the Union home ministry upgraded his security to the Z+ category and stipulated that close to 50 security personnel would accompany the governor henceforth. The Raj Bhavan and its premises have also been turned into a special security zone.