Superstar Rajinikanth on Wednesday threw his weight behind the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and asserted that the legislation did not pose any threat to Muslims while backing the National Population Register exercise as 'very essential'.
The actor's remarks did not go down well with the Opposition, led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which alleged he was echoing the
views of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Sangh Parivar.
The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu welcomed his stand that he would back Muslims if they were affected by the CAA, saying it was its policy too.
In his first reaction after the amendment to the Citizenship Amendment Act and nationwide protests against it, the top actor also sought to dispel misgivings about the National Register of Citizens saying the government was yet to make up its mind about it.
On the CAA, the 69-year-old actor wondered as to how Muslims, who chose to stay back in India following partition will be sent out of the country.
While a chunk of the Muslim population chose Pakistan, others decided to continue to live and die in India since it was their nation of birth, the 'janma bhoomi' and they have all their rights in the country, he asserted.
"A scare is created as if the CAA is a threat to Muslims. How it is a threat to Muslims? CAA is no threat to Muslims, if they face trouble (due to the law), I will be the first person to raise voice for them," he told reporters in Chennai.
Notably, the actor, who is expected to foray into politics has taken a stand contrary to that of his friend and Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan, who has staunchly opposed the CAA.
MNM is among the parties who have filed petitions against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the apex court.
Rajinikanth, who is likely to float his party ahead of the assembly elections next year, also pointed out that the central government has said Indian people will have no problem in view of the CAA.
The government has said no citizen will lose their citizenship and the law was only about bestowing citizenship on those from neighbouring countries, he pointed out.
Asked about the CAA not granting citizenship to Sri Lankan Tamils in India, he said the Tamil refugees who have been here for about three decades must be given dual citizenship.
"Tamil refugees who are here must be definitely given dual citizenship," he said, echoing the ruling AIADMK's stand.
The DMK, main opposition in Tamil Nadu, has been citing non-inclusion of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees as one of the reasons for its opposition to the CAA.
Alleging that some political parties were instigating people against the CAA for their selfish interests, he also blamed religious leaders for supporting protests against the law and dubbed it 'very wrong'.
Cautioning students against taking part in protests, he urged them to think, and solicit advice from their professors and elders before participating since political parties may try to 'use them'.
In the event of police filing first information reports against students (if they took part in protests and in case of any unlawful happenings in that connection), their future may be affected which needed to be borne in mind, he said.
Backing the National Population Register exercise, he said the drive is 'very, very essential', and added that it was very important and the Congress-led government had also done it in the past.
Asserting that the NPR process should be taken up, he asked whether it should not be ascertained who the residents of India were and who were not.
On NRC, he said, "It is not implemented yet and they (the Centre) are thinking about it;its contours will be known when they come up with a draft (framework) for it."
Responding to the actor's cautioning of students, DMK chief M K Stalin said such 'voices' were not new in the state.
Without naming the actor, Stalin, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, said even during the anti-Hindi agitation in the state in the 1960s, it was being alleged by some that political parties instigated students.
'It is an old voice. There was an attempt to divert the movement by making such claims.. the students remained firm and determined' in the agitation, he said about the protest in a Facebook post.
The anti-Hindi agitation, among others, propelled the Dravidian party to power in the 1967 elections, becoming the first non-Congress government in Tamil Nadu post independence.
Stalin's son and party's Youth Wing Secretary Udhayanidhi also took a jibe at Rajinikanth.
Students joining anti-CAA rallies, especially the DMK's signature campaign against the Act, was 'voluntary' but the superstar could not realise that since 'he is an actor' (and not into politics), he said.
The ruling AIADMK lauded Rajinikanth for supporting Muslims.
"It is good to lend voice for the minorities. That is our stand too. Whether it is Puratchi Thaliavar (former CM late MG Ramachandran) or Amma (J Jayalalithaa) or our chief minister ( K Palaniswami)," the AIADMK stood by minorities, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said.
The Congress hit out at Rajinikanth with Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief K S Alagiri saying the 'cat is out of the bag', and that the
actor has been 'unmasked'.
Party's Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram said the actor's comments reflect the BJP's views on CAA and suggested the latter could join the saffron party.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader and Lok Saba MP Thol Thirumavalavan said Rajinikanth 'has spoken BJP's voice' and 'identified himself with saffron and the Sangh Parivar'.