Even as fresh violence erupted against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs today said that the government has kept itself open to suggestions from the people before draft rules for the law are published.
"Protesters should read the Citizenship Amendment Act. If they have some suggestions to offer instead of protesting, we are ready to listen to them," a senior officer told NDTV. He said that although the Supreme Court has not stayed the publication of draft rules, the centre is taking precautionary steps before doing it because they are aware that the situation on the ground can deteriorate rapidly.
The centre's invitation for suggestions comes at a time when people in many parts of the country have risen in protest against the citizenship law, which they believe discriminates along religious lines. While three were killed across the country in nationwide protests on Thursday, as many as six died in fresh clashes that erupted in parts of Uttar Pradesh today. Protesters also clashed with police near Delhi Gate in the national capital.
The BJP-led government, however, remains firm in its stand that the Citizenship Amendment Act is a central law that all states, even those critical of it, are bound by the constitution to implement.
The official told NDTV that while the country has every right to shunt out illegal migrants, states would have a crucial role to play in granting citizenship under the new law. "This will be more of a digital process in which documents are verified electronically, and the state government's help will be needed in every aspect," he said.
The Citizenship Amendment Act aims to make it easier for non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to become Indian nationals. While protesters in the Northeast claim that it will nullify the Assam Accord of 1985 and open the floodgates for illegal migrants into the region, those in other parts of the country term it as a "discriminatory" law that seeks to undermine India's secular credentials. Several rights activists and opposition politicians have also termed the controversial law and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) as a "two-pronged attack" that will put even genuine Muslim citizens at risk of being sent to detention centres if they do not possess certain documents required to prove their domicile.
The centre, however, maintains that the protesters are being "misled" by people with vested interests. "Most of the people who have filed petitions in court are the ones protesting against the law," the official said, adding that people would be issued a national identity card under Article 14 A of the Citizenship Act once the NRC process is completed.