As many as 14 Indian states have so far declared not to implement the controversial citizenship law, believed to be discriminatory against Muslims.
On Tuesday, country’s southernmost state of Kerala even approached the Supreme Court, challenging the new law, knows as Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). India’s federal union comprises 28 states and 9 centrally administered territories.
Those defying the central government included the state of Bihar, ruled by Janata Dal (United) — an ally of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJP and its allies’ control 16 states, while 13 are held by different opposition parties. With Bihar also opposing, the number of states opposing the law has swelled to 14.
In its petition, the Kerala state government said that the CAA should be declared violative of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, which promises equality, liberty and freedom of conscience.
India has been witnessing extensive protests against the law, since it was cleared by the country’s Parliament and got presidential approval on Dec. 12.
It guarantees citizenship to non-Muslims of three neighboring countries Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Critics see the new law as unconstitutional and discriminating against Muslims.
The Left dominated Kerala state assembly last month passed a resolution asking the central government to withdraw the Act.
Leaders of the main opposition parties in the country have vehemently opposed law, which is to be followed by updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The exercise of the NRC entails every citizen to prove afresh Indian citizenship.
While non-Muslims would be covered under the new law and would be citizens automatically, the country’s 180 million Muslim population will be made to run helter-skelter to prove citizenship.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who belongs to the main opposition Congress, has described the citizenship law as violation of the secular fabric of the country.
“We will fight against it tooth and nail. BJP-led government at the Centre is attempting to change the values enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution,” said Singh in a statement.
Opposition ruled states refuse to implement law
Another Congress-ruled northern state of Rajasthan has also come out against the law. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the law infringes on the basic rights of the countrymen. He said Rajasthan would not enforce law which has been opposed by all communities including Hindus and Muslims, according to chief ministers’ office.
Another Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who heads state of Madhya Pradesh said that the CAA would hit at the very foundation of the nation as it links nationality with religion. Nath said that his government would stand with the national leaders of his party on this issue and they have already rejected CAA.
“We don’t want to be a part of a process that sows seeds of divisiveness,” he had said, according to a statement released by the party.
Similarly, Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh has also refused to implement the contentious law.
The western state of Maharashtra led by a coalition of Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Shiv Sena has also declared that it would not allow the legislation to be implemented in the state. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has said the Muslims should not fear in his state.
The southern Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has decided not to implement the CAA in his state. Reddy’s party YSR Congress had supported the Bill in Parliament but he later, sensing protests developed cold feet to announced the legislation. Similarly, the eastern state of Orissa has also declared not to implement the legislation. Earlier, the ruling party Biju Janata Dal or BJD voted in support of CAA in the parliament.
Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal, most vocal against the law said she will not allow the law to be implemented in her state, bordering Bangladesh.
According to a Home Ministry official, states cannot refuse to implement the law enacted under the subjects falling in the central list. Nationality is a subject matter of Central government and it has the power to make laws on this subject, the official said.
Constitution expert Subhash Kashyap also says that legislating on citizenship comes under the jurisdiction of Indian parliament. “States have no power to enact laws on citizenship. If the state governments do not implement it, then it would be a violation of the constitution, “he said.
Kashyap said that the states which have come out against the citizenship law can either challenge it in the Supreme Court or wait for next national elections to get majority in the parliament to overturn the law.