- Congress leader said Amit Shah didn't respond to questions in Parliament
- Citizenship Act was passed in haste, but the people opposed it, he added
- Chidambaram also slammed Army chief for interfering in a civilian matter
Former Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday questioned the logic behind his successor, Amit Shah, challenging Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to a debate on the Citizenship Amendment Act when he "had not answered even a single question" on the issue in parliament.
"Amit Shah must go back and listen to the debates in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. He did not answer even a single question, and now he is challenging Rahul Gandhi for a debate on it. Everything is wrong about this law," he said at a rally held to challenge the controversial law in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Congress leader, who is out on bail in a moneylaundering case, said the legislation was passed through parliament and signed into law with undue haste by the BJP-led centre. "The Citizenship Amendment Bill was approved on December 8 by the Union Cabinet. On December 9, they introduced it in the Lok Sabha and passed it at 12 am. On December 11, they introduced it in the Rajya Sabha. The present government passed this bill in three days," he added.
He went on to praise the public for opposing the law, which has been termed "unconstitutional" by many. "Thousands of students and young people came to the streets. The majority of the persons who came on to the streets were Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jain, Parsis, Dalits and tribals," he said, terming the agitation as a "struggle heralded by people who believe they are Indians".
The Citizenship Amendment Act, for the first time, makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India before 2015 because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.
"Everybody has several identities, but there is one big identity which is that we are all Indian and everybody is equal in India. This law destroys the basis of our constitution," he said.
Mr Chidambaram also slammed Army chief General Bipin Rawat over his criticism of political leaders opposing the law, and asked him to stay away from matters that don't concern him. "It is not the business of the Army to tell politicians what we should do, just as it is not our business to tell you how to fight a war. You fight war in accordance with your ideas and we will manage the country's politics in accordance with ours," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)