Anti-CAA: Unprecedented protest during Prez speech

Anti-CAA: Unprecedented protest during President speech in Parliament

Kovind said India always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths but this "very belief" came under the "most severe attack" at the time of Partition.

Unprecedented protests were witnessed in Parliament Central Hall during President Ram Nath Kovind's address in Parliament Central Hall on Friday, as he invoked Mahatma Gandhi to defend the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that invited "shame, shame" chant from Opposition to NDA MPs' huge applause and display of banners against the legislation.

Addressing a customary joint sitting of the Parliament at the start of Budget Session, Kovind said the Mahatma's wishes have been fulfilled now even as Opposition leaders said the government has lowered the prestige of the President's Office by referring to the CAA as an achievement, making it clear the controversial legislation will remain a bone of contention between both the sides.

The event saw Opposition MPs from Congress, DMK, CPI(M), CPI, RSP and RJD among others sitting in the Central Hall wearing black arm bands in protest while Trinamool Congress MPs displayed 'No CAA', 'No NPR' and 'No NRC' banners with three among them wearing shirts with these slogans.

Clear indications of scaling up the protest against CAA were evident even before the President arrived, as UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rajya Sabha Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad refused to sit in their assigned front row seats to join other Opposition MPs in the fifth row. Also, just before President started his speech, Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq stood up in protest speaking, which was inaudible.

Kovind said India always believed in the principle of equal respect for all faiths but this "very belief" came under the "most severe attack" at the time of Partition.

"In the environment prevailing in the aftermath of partition, the Father of the Nation...had said 'Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India. It is the duty of the government to ensure a normal life for them'. Many national leaders and political parties have from time to time supported this idea of 'Pujya (respected) Bapu' and further propagated it," he said.

"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 CAA. At a time when the country is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, all of you have given paramount consideration to this sentiment. I congratulate both the Houses of Parliament and all the MPs for this," he said.

As soon as he mentioned the Mahatma, the ruling MPs started thumping the desk, which continued for over a minute, following which MPs from the Opposition chanted "shame, shame". Amid this, the President completed his mention about CAA in which he referred to the increase in the atrocities on minorities in Pakistan over time.

"We have all seen what happened in Nankana Sahib recently. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring the atrocities being committed in Pakistan to the notice of the global community. While condemning the atrocities on the minorities in Pakistan, I urge the world community to take cognizance of it and take necessary steps in this regard," he added.

While his speech entered the 45th minute, around 20-25 Trinamool Congress MPs stood up in their seats silently and displayed banners against CAA, NRC and NPR. In between, Assam Congress MP Abdul Khaleque too was seen on his feet in protest.

Responding to the address, Azad said the government has lowered the prestige of president's office by including the CAA in his address. It was shameful that the government claimed CAA to be an achievement and included it in president's address, he said even as Opposition leaders made it clear that they would be moving amendments to the address.