New Delhi: Amid widespread pan-India protests, Left-ruled Kerala on Tuesday became the first state Assembly in the country to pass a resolution demanding scrapping of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.
However, the Centre, reacting to this unprecedented move, which had full support from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), said only Parliament had powers to pass any law regarding citizenship.
"It is only Parliament which has got the powers to pass any law with regard to citizenship; not any Assembly, including Kerala Assembly," Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference here.
Complimenting the Kerala Assembly’s move, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “Kerala shows the way. Kudos to the people of Kerala and their representatives in the state legislative Assembly. We will not let BJP’s nefarious designs succeed.”
Though some Chief Ministers of non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states, such as Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, have announced that they would not implement CAA, the Communist Party of India ( Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the state is the first to take the legislature route to register its opposition to the law.
Setting aside their political differences, the ruling LDF and Opposition UDF, have once again joined hands to launch a joint fight against the Centre on the CAA, which is seeing unprecedented protests across the country.
While all the members of LDF and UDF unanimously supported the resolution at the special session and vehemently criticised the BJP-led Central government, O Rajagopal, the lone BJP MLA in the 140-member house, opposed the resolution, terming it as "illegal and unconstitutional."
Read More: Kerala Plans for More Joint Protests Against CAA-NRC
In the special session, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, moved the resolution and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, seconded it. Vijayan alleged that CAA was an attempt to make India a religious nation, which Rajagopal rejected saying the Act was being "misinterpreted".
The Chief Minister said the implementation of the controversial Act would lead to religion-based discrimination in granting citizenship, which was against the secular values enshrined in the Constitution.
The law, which provides Indian nationality to persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, contradicts the basic values and principles of the Constitution, Vijayan said, adding that it was a cause of concern for the non-resident Indians, too. The Chief Minister said he wanted the Centre to take steps to drop CAA and uphold the secular credentials of the Constitution.
The southern state has already put on hold all activities in connection with the National Population Register (NPR) considering the apprehensions of the public that it would lead to National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Noting that the Act had triggered widespread protests among various strata of society, the Chief Minister said it had dented India's image in front of the international community.
Vijayan also made it clear that there would be no detention centres set up to house illegal immigrants in the state.
“Just because both houses of Parliament have passed the CAA, it cannot be implemented as it was against constitutional values,” he said.
Congress leader Chennithala also criticised the CAA and came down on the state governor Arif Mohammed Khan for supporting the Act.
"The governor should be above politics," Chennithala said adding he should understand the feelings of the people of the state.
Chennithala claimed that the controversial Act virtually rejects the equality guaranteed by the Constitution and violates the fundamental rights of the citizens. The CAA cannot be viewed as an isolated move but it should be seen along with the NRC and NPR, he added.
Read More: Political Rivals UDF, LDF Join Hands to Oppose CAA in Kerala
On December 29, during an all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister to discuss the issue, the UDF had urged the LDF government to convene a special session and pass a resolution against CAA.
During the meeting, various political parties and socio-religious outfits, also decided to hold more joint protests against CAA in the state.
In a unique show of unity, the two political rival fronts had on December 16 held a joint protest in Kerala against CAA.
Tuesday’s resolution was passed at the special session convened to ratify the extension by another 10 years the reservation for SC and ST community in the state assemblies and Parliament.
The House passed another resolution criticising the removal of the Anglo- Indian community from reservation in the state Assemblies and Parliament.
Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam (DMK) chief MK Stalin, who has been in the forefront of anti-CAA protests, backed the decision of the Kerala Assembly saying “I welcome the resolution passed by CM Pinarayi Vijayan scrapping CAA 2019.” He urged other state assemblies, such as AIADMK-ruled TN, to follow the path of Kerala Assembly.
(with inputs from PTI)