Congress MPs sat on the fifth and sixth rows and refused to sit in their designated front row seats.
New Delhi: Amid unprecedented Opposition protests, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday praised the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act as a historic step and a fulfillment of Mahatma Gandhi’s wishes.
In his 70-minute address to a joint session of Parliament before the beginning of the Budget Session, Mr Kovind touched upon a number of issues ranging from facilities for Muslim students, the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the need to improve the economy. However, when he referred to the CAA, it was drowned in the crescendo of “shame, shame” from the Opposition.
As soon as the President began praising the contentious CAA, which has unleashed massive prot-ests across the country, members of the ruling BJP began to thump their desks and very soon the Opposition Congress and other MPs were seen shouting “shame, shame”.
Congress MPs, including senior leaders Sonia Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, sat on the fifth and sixth rows and refused to sit in their designated front row seats.
The Congress MPs also wore black armbands.
At around 11.45 am, as the President was still speaking on the CAA, Trinamul Congress MPs got up and silently stood, some wearing white shirts with “No NRC” written on them, and other brandishing cloth placards with “No CAA, No NRC and No NPR” written on them.
Not only did the President hail the new citizenship law, he also criticised any kind of violence, saying it would weaken society and the nation, without directly referring to the anti-CAA protests across the country, some of which have seen violence. The issue of atrocities against the minorities in Pakistan was also brought up by the President.
He pointed out that mutual discussions and debates strengthen democracy and also called for making this decade India’s decade and this century India’s century.
“It is our responsibility to honour this wish of the founding fathers of our nation. I am happy that both the Houses of Parliament have fulfilled this wish, by enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act. At a time when the country is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, all of you have given paramount consideration to this sentiment,” Mr Kovind said.
On economic issues, Mr Kovind asked the people to use locally manufactured products for a better tomorrow, as he reiterated the government’s commitment to make India a $5 trillion economy.
He mentioned the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya judgment, on the setting up of a Ram temple, saying that the faith reposed by the people of India in democratic institutions “strengthens the foundation of our democracy”.
He also spoke on the abrogation of Article 370, saying there is happiness among the people of India that people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have got their rights at par with the rest of the country.
“Today, after seven decades, the whole country is happy that the dream of crores of freedom fighters, including Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, has come true and the people of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, dalits and women from that area have also got the same rights as people in the rest of the country.
“The abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament is not only historic but has also paved the way for the equitable development of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh.”