The contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had set off a chain of protests across the country. Taken in conjunction with the National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), many see it as going against Article 14 of the Constitution.
In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had said that "No one has to worry if CAA gets implemented."
CAA and NRC are different and NPR is different. No one has to worry if CAA gets implemented. NRC is not there and will not be implemented in the state," Thackeray had tweeted, adding that NPR will happen in the state as there is nothing controversial about it.
Speaking to the Free Press Journal on Friday, Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said that the party was only against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
"This whole concept of 'architecture of citizenship' that they are now developing, is quite complex to understand," he says.
"We're only against CAA," he reiterates.
Reminding that it was the Congress that had ensured the implementation of the NPR in 2010, Chavan said that the current situation was problematic only when taken in conjunction with the 2019 amendments that were made to the Citizenship law. But, according to Chavan, the NPR at that time had been a very different tool.
"The intention of our government was never to this kind of thing where Muslims are targeted," he said.
Concepts like excluding a particular religion, he said, did not exist before the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
"We're demanding that it should be repealed...it flies in the face of Article 14 of the Constitution," he adds, speaking about the CAA.
He adds that there is a difference between a citizenship list and a list of residents. The Congress, he said had been amenable to the idea of issuing a national identity card (a local passport, if you will).
The idea behind the NPR, at the time, he said, was to create a pan-India resident list that would take into consideration even foreign nationals who are staying for a few years in the country. It becomes more problematic when the focus is shifted to citizenship. Even then, Chavan adds, it is not a problem, as long as there is a government that does not want to utilise this aspect "for religious purposes".
Chavan does not see much of a problem with the NRC either. As he puts it, "if you repeal CAA, technically speaking, we should not have a problem with NPR".
"In the background of CAA, we have a problem with the NPR, because their intentions are faulty," he adds.
Chavan opines that human rights does not seem to have come into the equation. "If they are talking about human rights why did they leave out Tamils from Sri Lanka? If they're talking about neighbours, then there are eight neighbours. Why have we selected three?" he asked.
Earlier this week, in response to Uddhav Thackeray's tweet, Revenue Minister and Maharashtra Congress Chief Balasaheb Thorat had said that his party's stand regarding the CAA-NRC-NPR was "very clear" and that they were "opposed to it".
"The Congress party is opposed to anything that causes discrimination in the society. We will convince our alliance partners on the same," he had written.
(With inputs from agencies)