Sec 144 may be extended if stir continues: K'taka Dy CM

Sec 144 may be extended if stir continues: K'taka Dy CM

Deputy Chief Minister C. N. Ashwath Narayan. (DH File photo)

Karnataka government officials hinted that they could extend the imposition of Section 144 in the city if protests continued. 

Speaking following an address on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to party members at BJP headquarters on Saturday morning, the Deputy CM C Ashwath Narayan said that the government is looking at all solutions to restore calm in the city. 

"If necessary, we will extend Section 144 which is set to be lifted tomorrow. We are exploring all our options with members of law enforcement," he said.

Section 144 prohibits the assembly of more than four people in public areas. A bit of colonial-era legislation, it is used to tackle public displays of dissension.

Activists, joined by the historian Ramachandra Guha, castigated officials for their crackdowns against largely peaceful demonstrations held in the city. However, the BJP suggested that it has regarded the protests as "illegal," not only because they flouted Section 144, but they claimed such protests spread "misinformation."

A primary sticking point of protesters is that the CAA when linked to the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), could render stateless thousands of Indian citizens, especially Muslims.

However, J C Madhuswamy, the state government's Minister For Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Legislation, painted the CAA as an inherently "humanitarian" bit of legislation intended to help "stateless people."

He claimed that the CAA was the BJP's contribution to the Indian legacy of helping stateless people. "In the 1960s, India took in Asians from Uganda and we took in Tibetans after they were forced out by the Chinese. No can dispute our commitment to human rights," he said. 

Narayan insisted that there were no plans that he knew of to link CAA with the National Registry of Citizens (NRC), which could potentially disenfranchise those people without documentation proving their Indian citizenship. 

"However, people are conflating CAA with NRC. The Citizenship Amendment Act is only intended to help minority refugees from neighboring countries. It has nothing to do with the NRC. The protests, which are taking place in Bengaluru are spreading misinformation," he said.

However, when questioned on why Muslim refugees would be barred under CAA, and why the central government in 2015 refused to grant entry to Rohingya refugees fleeing a crackdown in neighboring Myanmar, Narayan clarified that CAA sought to help minorities in Muslim majority nations. 

Citing Pakistan, he said that large numbers of Hindus were living under oppressive and poverty-stricken conditions. "Is it not moral to bring them to India, where they at least have a chance of living a good life?" he asked.

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