- The drive is to clear "misconceptions" over Citizenship (Amendment) Act
- Massive protests have broken out nationwide over the citizenship law
- The drive will include several hundred rallies by BJP
Faced with an avalanche of protests - some of which have been violent - over the controversial citizenship law, the ruling BJP has stepped up firefighting efforts and plans to connect with three crore families over the next 10 days in an outreach effort. This will include several hundred rallies and more than 250 press conferences and, the government says, will clear "misconceptions" about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.
Massive protests have broken out nationwide over the citizenship law.
In Uttar Pradesh, 13 people were killed in violence that broke out after Friday prayers. One person had died in Lucknow and one in Sambhal on Thursday, taking the total number of deaths in the state to 15.
On Friday, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad led a powerful rally against the citizenship law near Delhi's historic Jama Masjid. Hours later, hundreds marched for Jantar Mantar at the city centre, but were stopped midway by the Delhi Police after protestors threw stones and torched a private car. The cops resorted to water cannons and tear gas to control the situation.
The violence came only a few days after a crackdown by Delhi Police on Jamia Millia Islamia students that triggered a furious backlash from student communities across the country.
Violence also hit the southern state of Karnataka on Thursday; two persons died in police firing in Mangaluru city, where a curfew has been declared.
Protests and violence have also been recorded in Bengal, the northeast and at several other major cities, including Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
The BJP's outreach decision was taken at a meeting in Delhi on Saturday that was chaired by JP Nadda.
After the meeting, BJP General Secretary Bhupender Yadav told reporters the party would counter the "lies" of the opposition, including the Congress. He also referred to an old video of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh advocating for citizenship to all persecuted minorities from Bangladesh.
In a televised address on Friday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi accused the ruling BJP of "brute repression" and showing "utter disregard" for people's voices.
The outreach decision is in line with a suggestion by the Supreme Court which, on Wednesday, asked the centre to consider using audio-visual medium to make citizens aware about CAA. The top court was hearing 59 petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the law.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act offers Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries if they fled to the country because of religious persecution. It is the first time religion has been made a test of citizenship.
The government says the law will help minorities but critics say it is discriminates against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the Constitution.