Protesters gather by the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi on Friday. Agence France-Presse
On a day on which protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) reached the residence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) key allies dumped the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the government signalled it is ready for a compromise.
Amit Shah had insisted that the NRC will be enforced across the country to weed out illegals. But on Friday BJP ally Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar joined Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik on Friday to announce that his state will trash the NRC.
Protesters have called the CAA and its relative NRC draconian.
Amit Shah’s junior minister GK Reddy said on Friday that the Centre is ready to hold talks on the CAA and that timelines for applying a nationwide NRC have not been resolved. “The Centre is ready to speak with anybody who doesn’t take pleasure in physical violence,” he said.
“When it will be brought has not been worked out. There is no draft made yet nor has the cabinet approved it or any legal framework has been worked out,” Reddy said.
Reddy also said that the government will hold talks with stakeholders before rolling out of the regulations for CAA. “Once normalcy is restored in the country, Centre would be speaking to everyone before taking out CAA draft rules,” he said.
Patnaik, attending the meeting of chief ministers in Delhi on Thursday, had stunned the BJP by openly announcing that Odisha will not enforce the NRC. His party had supported the CAA in Parliament. On Friday Nitish Kumar also came up with the same declaration. His MPs had also voted for the CAA.
Kaahe ka NRC? Bilkul laagu nahin hoga (NRC, what for? Will not at all be implemented) Nitish assured a journalist who asked a question about it.
The Akali Dal is another ally distancing itself from the CAA as well as the NRC.
“Akali Dal wants Muslims to be included in the Citizenship Act. We have always talked about the welfare of people of all the religions, not just of the Sikhs,” said party leader Sukhbir Badal.
While the BJP wants to use NRC as a card to win elections in Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also announced its rejection.
Delhi, which felt a 6.8 tremor on Friday, remained tense over the CAA protests, which were focused around the Juma Masjid.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad dramatically escaped police custody after leading a huge protest at Juma Masjid. Delhi Police had denied permission to Azad’s protest march from Juma Masjid to Jantar Mantar.
Azad, 31, read out the preamble to the constitution, the crowd chanting alongside.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) closed at least four metro stations - Chawri Bazar, Lal Quila, Jama Masjid and Delhi Gate - in view of the protests.
Delhi Mahila Congress chief and former president Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha and some other members of the outfit were detained near Amit Shah’s residence during a protest against the new law.
The large-scale protests in and around Uttar Pradesh turned violent on Friday afternoon as protesters went on a rampage in six districts, pelting stones at the police, setting vehicles on fire and ransacking a number of police outposts.
The protests against the controversial CA Act led to major violence in Kanpur, Firozabad’s Lalganj area, Bijnor’s Naya Bazar area, Hapur, Muzaffarnagar and Gorakhpur.
Protesters pelted stones at the police, set motorbikes and cars on fire and ransacked police outposts in Hardoi and Farrukhabad.
In return, the police fired tear gas shells and lathicharged protesters. In Deoband, though, the protests were relatively non-violent.
The stir across Uttar Pradesh are a part of several such protests that have seized cities across the country since Sunday. Protests were being held in scores of cities including Delhi, Gujarat, Patna, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Patna.
Security has also been beefed up across Uttar Pradesh, as police have registered 19 FIRs against unknown people, of whom 17 are ‘named’ including Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Shafiqur Rahman Barq in Sambhal district in connection with the violence during Thursday’s protest.