Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday said that like eight other states, Maharashtra should also refuse implementation of the new citizenship law, which he feared would hurt the religious and social harmony of India.
Dubbing the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens "ploys" by the Centre to "divert attention" from serious issues plaguing the country, Pawar expressed apprehension that the Centre might dismiss the state governments opposing the new citizenship law.
The NCP is a ruling constituent, along with the Congress, in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government headed by the Shiv Sena.
The former Union minister said his party had opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill when it came up for passage in Parliament.
"Eight states, including Bihar, which is ruled by an NDA ally, have refused to implement the law and Maharashtra should also take a similar stand," he said in response to a query.
"But if the states oppose the Union government's order, there is a likelihood that it may dismiss these state governments," Pawar added.
Besides Bihar, states of Kerala, Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan had opposed the CAA implementation.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of the Sena had last Sunday said that implementation of the CAA will be dependent upon the ruling of the Supreme Court.
"We are checking legality of the new law. Some people have challenged the CAA in the Supreme Court. We are waiting to find out whether the new act fits the framework of Constitution or not," he had said.
Meanwhile, Pawar alleged that the Centre was misusing its power and avoiding a dialogue with the stake-holders even as anti-CAA protests are raging across the country.
"CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens) are ploys to divert people's attention from serious issues being faced by the country," he told reporters in Pune.
He also alleged that the new legislation posed a threat to the country's unity and social harmony.
"Not just minorities, but those who care for the country's unity and progress are opposing CAA and NRC. The new citizenship law will disturb and hurt religious and social unity and harmony of the country. Poor people will be impacted the most. In Assam, a few lakh non-Muslims are in camps and their condition is bad," the NCP chief said.
Pawar also questioned selective grant of citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan under the new law while excluding Sri Lankan Tamils.
"Is it because they (Sri Lankan Tamils) don't belong to a particular religion?" he asked.
"People from only these countries will be allowed (as citizens) as the government feels it will polarise the society to its benefit," he alleged.
As per the Act, people from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities, who have come to India till December 31, 2014 owing to their religious persecution they will not be treated as illegal immigrants and will be given Indian citizenship.
"There are so many people from Nepal who live and work here. In my official residence in Delhi, two staff members who have been looking after the house for the last 30 years, are Nepalis. Not just me, there are many Nepalis working as domestic helps in establishments," he said.
Replying to a query on the Centre's response to the ongoing violent anti-CAA protests across the country, Pawar said, "The government is misusing its power and avoiding the dialogue with the stakeholders. It should clarify things so that peace is restored."
"People can express anger and register their protest, but violence can't be tolerated. We have already appealed our leaders not to take part in any kind of violence," he said.
"The CAA may be a Central act, but the implementation will be done by the state agencies. But do the states have resources and machinery to do so?" he asked.
Stating that the Centre and states should work together, Pawar said the present government is working exactly the opposite way.
"Such a situation is being deliberately created and we oppose this strongly," he said.
India is not a dharmshala: Raj Thackeray on CAA
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray on Saturday virtually dubbed the new citizenship law and proposed National Register of Citizens as ploys by the Centre to divert the attention of people from the "economic crisis".
Thackeray also raised questions over the proposed "influx" of immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to India under the recently-passed Citizenship Amendment Act.
"There is a riot-like situation in the country due to the violence over CAA and NRC. I wonder how many people have understood these two decisions. There are different aspects to these two issues," he told reporters.
For the first time, I would like to congratulate (Union Home Minister and BJP chief) Amit Shah for the "political game" he has played for successfully diverting the attention of people from recession and economic crisis, Thackeray said.
The CAA proposes to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees escaping religions persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which has triggered massive protests across the country.
"If you can cast your vote showing Aadhaar card as proof then why can't that document prove your citizenship? Why were people made to undergo biometric screening?" he asked.
Referring to CAA provisions, the MNS chief said India with a "135 crore population" do not need more people.
There is no need to paint it as an issue between Hindu and Muslims, he said.
Thackeray also said India is not a "dharmshala" or a charity shelter where illegal immigrants can come and settle down.
"It is important to check how many Bangladeshis, Pakistanis have entered India from the Nepal border," the MNS chief said even as he appealed to Muslims in India to not feel insecure.
He demanded an inter-state migration act to enable government authorities to identify illegal migrants.
Thackeray also criticised the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena for joining hands with the Congress and the NCP to form a new government.
He said that that decision was not gone down well with the common people, who will express it in the next elections.
"The good part of the (October 2019) assembly elections was that most of the defectors who crossed over to other parties got defeated," he said.
Thackeray said the first state-level convention of the MNS will be held in Mumbai on January 23.
The Raj Thackeray-led party has only one MLA in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.