Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath took out a peace march in Bhopal today against the controversial citizenship law, heading a large group of Congress leaders wearing Gandhi caps and holding anti-NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAA (Citizenship (Amendment) Act) placards. Throughout the Chief Minister's protest, which was from Rangmahal movie theatre to Minto Hall and finished peacefully, people held national flags and posters with slogans like "No NRC, No CAA".
The Chief Minister has made it clear that neither the NRC nor the CAA will be implemented in his state; he joins a growing list of state heads who have voiced similar positions; the list includes other Congress-ruled states like Rajasthan and Punjab as well as Bihar, which is ruled by BJP ally JDU.
"It has been four decades since I've been in active politics as a lawmaker... but haven't seen laws like the NRC and CAA, which are an onslaught on India's Constitution. The Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister are speaking in different tones on the same issue. The question isn't about what the PM or Home Minister is saying... it is about what they aren't saying," Kamal Nath said today.
"What is written in the two laws isn't being questioned. We're questioning what isn't written in it. We're not talking about how the NRC-CAA are mandated to be used, but how actually will it be misused," he said, declaring that the Congress was against the NRC-CAA "hidden agenda".
Mr Nath also pointed out that the Indian economy was in "shambles" and urged the centre to focus on issues like unemployment and farmers' distress, a point belied by Punjab's Shiromani Akali Dal; in an interview NDTV yesterday the BJP ally warned the centre to return to its 2014 economic agenda.
Protests, some violent, have broken out across the country over the centre's plans to extend the controversial NRC (National Register of Citizens) exercise carried out in Assam - it excluded 19 lakh people - to other states and also the amendments to the 1955 Citizenship Act.
Opposition leaders have been fiercely critical about the CAA; Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said it was a ploy from the "Nazi copybook" and the Congress's Anand Sharma said it "hurts the very soul of the Constitution".
On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to contradict a statement made by the Home Minister in parliament last month - Amit Shah said "NRC will be carried out across the country". The PM seemed to say that would not happen, a position Mr Shah then echoed in an interview with news agency ANI yesterday.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister also spoke about the NPR (National Population Register) approved by the Union Cabinet on Tuesday, saying the Congress had also advocated for the exercise but cautioned against linking it to the NRC.
He also hit out at the Prime Minister's allegations the Congress and "urban naxals" were spreading misinformation about the CAA.
Meanwhile, the BJP is set to initiate a 15-day outreach effort on the CAA and NRC from January 1.
"The way opposition has created confusion, mistrust in the country... atmosphere of anarchy... we will go to each and every household to tell them what is CAA is. It is not a law to take citizenship but to give citizenship... feel ashamed when Congress and Left try to create atmosphere of anarchy," Vishwas Sarang, a former minister, said.