New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday hailed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as "historic" in his address to the joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, prompting protests by some Opposition members. Later, sources said an angry Opposition was planning to move and amendment to the speech, seeking to remove some of his remarks.
"The Citizenship Amendment Act is a historic law. It has fulfilled wishes of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi," Kovind said in his address.
As soon as the president made these remarks, some Opposition members shouted "shame, shame" slogans and also displayed banners.
Kovind also said: "Debate and discussions strengthen democracy but violence during protests weaken democracy," without directly referring to the anti-CAA protests in the country some of which have witnessed violence.
In a reference to abrogation of Article 370, Kovind said there is happiness among people of India that people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have got rights on par with the rest of the country.
Reacting strongly to this, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “Govt claiming development in J&K after making it UT is a cruel joke with people there; Centre should apologise.”
Earlier, leaders of 14 Opposition parties had attended the joint session wearing black arm bands in protest against the amended citizenship act, NPR and NRC.
Leaders of these parties also sat together in one block in the Central Hall of Parliament during the President's address.
Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha also left their designated seats in the front row to sit with the block.
The black bands were worn as a mark of protest against the alleged attack on the Constitution of India with the passage of the amended citizenship act by the government, leaders said.
Among the leaders of opposition parties who wore black bands were NCP, SP, DMK, RJD, CPI-M, CPI, Shiv Sena, JMM, JDS, RSP, Kerala Congress (M), IUML and National Conference, besides the Congress, sources said.
Earlier in the day, top Congress leaders led by Sonia Gandhi staged a protest near Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament complex to save the Constitution and express solidarity with those protesting against the Citizenship Act, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
Later, in a hard-hitting attack on the government over the new citizenship law, Opposition parties held it responsible for the widespread unrest in the country following the legislation's enactment and said the society was dangerously inching toward a civil war-like situation.
Speaking at a press briefing after Kovind's address, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government has lowered the prestige of president's office by including the CAA in his address.
"The society is dangerously inching toward a civil war-like situation and the government is solely responsible for it," CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.