- BJP MP Kiren Rijiju said Citizenship Bill "corrected Congress blunders"
- Mr Gandhi said centre was trying to "ethnically cleanse North East"
- Citizenship Bill cleared by Lok Sabha on Monday, Rajya Sabha on Wednesday
The BJP's Kiren Rijiju took a swipe at Rahul Gandhi this morning, a day after the Congress leader called the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill "an attempt by the Modi-Shah government to ethnically cleanse the North East". Mr Rijiju, a Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal Pradesh, claimed the Congress had violated laws to settle refugees in "our protected areas" and said the Citizenship Bill, or CAB, had simply corrected the opposition party's "blunders". The CAB, which seeks to make Indian citizens of non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed by the Rajya Sabha late Thursday night after clearing the Lok Sabha on Monday.
"No, Rahul Gandhi-ji, all the refugees were settled in our protected areas by your Congress Party violating the laws! All illegal migrants entered North-East due to Congress policy. Your blunders are corrected. Now, refugees can't become local/ ST citizens in our protected land!" Mr Rijiju, a Union Minister, hit back.
Yesterday, only hours before the controversial Citizenship Bill was tabled in the Upper House by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Mr Gandhi tweeted that the bill was a "criminal attack on the northeast" and an attempt by the government to "ethnically cleanse" the region.
No, Rahul Gandhi ji, all the refugees were settled in our protected areas by your Congress Party violating the laws! All illegal migrants entered North-East due to Congress policy. Your blunders are corrected. Now, refugees can't become local/ ST citizens in our protected land! https://t.co/pK6pqIv5VD— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) December 12, 2019
Mr Gandhi's strong remarks were echoed in parliament by Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien who, in a powerful speech, invoked images of Nazi Germany and accused the ruling BJP of following the Nazi German "copybook".
As the bill was being debated (and voted on) in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, massive and violent protests broke out in the North East. The scale of protests - involving thousands of students and civil society members - forced the Assam and Tripura governments to call out the Army and paramilitary forces.
The Assam government also imposed a curfew and suspended mobile and internet services for a 24-hour period; the Tripura government issued a similar notification on Tuesday.
The North East has seen widespread protests against the Citizenship Bill, with many fearing the influx of refugees will endanger indigenous identities and livelihoods.
Last week Amit Shah held meetings with stakeholders in the region to reassure them and, following those meetings, certain tribal areas in the region, as well as those governed by the ILP system, were exempted.
Nevertheless, protests have continued unabated, with a student leader quoted by PTI as saying: "This is a barbaric government led by Sarbananda Sonowal. We will not succumb to any pressure till the CAB is repealed".