KOLKATA: Accusing the leaders of opposition parties of misleading students and youth on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday the dispute that has arisen over the amended Citizenship Act has made the world aware of religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan.
"Our initiatives to amend the Citizenship Act has created a dispute. It is the result of our new move that Pakistan will now have to answer why they have been persecuting minorities for the last 70 years. Human rights have been demolished in Pakistan. The CAA has made the world aware of what has been going on in Pakistan," said Modi while addressing a gathering at Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission.
Mounting a strong defence of the new Act, the PM said the CAA is not about taking away citizenship. "It is about giving citizenship. On National Youth Day, I would like to tell the youngsters of India, West Bengal, North-East that this is not an overnight law for giving citizenship. The leaders of opposition political parties are misguiding youth and students," he said.
Reiterating that the new Act is not going to drive out any Indian citizen, Modi said, "We must know that any person of any religion who believes in India and its constitution can apply for Indian citizenship through due process. There is no problem."
The PM’s remark on youth being misguided came at a time when protests against the amended Citizenship Act have snowballed across India with students and women leading the charge. The flames of discontent have been fanned by alleged police inaction when a masked mob barged into the JNU campus and assaulted Left-leaning students in their hostels.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday skipped the event celebrating 150-year of Kolkata Port Trust where she was scheduled to share stage with the PM. Though she gave a nod on Friday but changed her decision after Kolkata exploded in unparalleled protests against Modi on Saturday and she had to face its heat after meeting the PM at Raj Bhavan, said a leader of the ruling party in Bengal. Mamata, who returned to Esplanade after attending an event at Millennium Park with Modi on Saturday evening, had to explain the supporters of Left leaning students’ unions why did she meet the PM.
Esplanade, the heart of the state capital, was under the control of protesters since Saturday afternoon who blocked the zone. With black balloons, placards and banners saying ‘Go Back Modi’, the students continued shouting slogans till the PM’s chopper took off from Royal Calcutta Turf Club ground on Sunday afternoon.
A group of Congress supporters showed black flags and shouted ‘go back’ slogan when Modi arrived Netaji Indoor Stadium from Belur Math to attend the Kolkata Port Trust’s event. The police personnel swung into action, bundled up the protesters in a vehicles and whisked them away.
Modi, an ardent devotee of Vivekananda, spent the night at the Math.
He has a long association with the Ramkrishna Mission order founded by Vivekananda in 1897.
Inspired by the teachings of Vivekananda, Modi had arrived at the Mission Ashram in Gujarat's Rajkot and expressed a desire to join the order.
Swami Atmasthananda, who later went on to become the 15th president of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, then headed the Rajkot branch and had advised him that sanyas was not for him and that he should work among people.
During those days, Modi used to regularly meet Atmasthananda and sought his spiritual guidance.
Although Modi went back after spending some time there his the relationship with Swami Atmasthananda and the Ramkrishna Mission continued.
Whenever Modi used to visit Kolkata, even during his days as Gujarat chief minister, he would travel to the Math.
In 2013, during his Kolkata visit, he had gone to Belur and sought the blessings from Atmasthananda.
He had in 2015 called on ailing Swami Atmasthananda at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan, a hospital run by the Mission in south Kolkata and enquired about his health.
After Atmasthananda's death in 2017, Prime Minister Modi had termed it as a "personal loss".
On Sunday, the prime minister paid tributes to Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary, which is celebrated as the National Youth Day, and spent some time in the spiritual leader's room in quietude.