The nationwide agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) needs a proper direction and guidance to mount sustained pressure on the Centre to withdraw the dangerous legislation. The mass movement requires credible political voices to lend weight to the argument against the NDA government’s move to tinker with the basic structure of the Constitution. In this context, the decision of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers and heads of regional parties opposed to the CAA is quite laudable. Such an initiative by a leader of impeccable track record in governance and formulation of harmonious policies will go a long way in convincing the Centre to avoid the perilous path. Rao is all poised to play a key role in bringing together like-minded political parties across the nation so that the movement is more sharply focused. After winning public mandate in all the elections held since the formation of the State in 2014, he is ideally placed to become a rallying point for the fight over an issue that is at the core of the idea of India and that involves preserving the soul of the Constitution. Telangana is set to join a growing number of States, which have passed a resolution in their Assemblies against the implementation of the CAA. Already, West Bengal, Kerala, Punjab and Rajasthan have passed such a resolution, signalling how the new citizenship law has evoked a strong reaction across the country.
Though the Congress did attempt to bring together the parties opposed to the CAA under a single platform, it did not make much headway as leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati refused to be a part of it. By proposing to hold a meeting of the Chief Ministers and leaders of regional parties in Hyderabad, instead of making it a Delhi-centric affair, Rao has sent out the right message. There is a need for collective action to prevent the country’s image from going down further. Already, India’s standing as a secular, liberal, open and free society has taken a severe beating with the new citizenship law making religion as a test for citizenship. The Centre’s handling of mass protests so far has been disappointing. Instead of seeking to suppress the voices of dissent, the Centre must reach out to the people and allay their apprehensions. The CAA-NRC combo has stirred anxieties among minorities that they could be unfairly targeted. The purpose of linking the CAA with the NRC appears to be to consolidate the Hindu-Muslim binary. However, it is now clear that the BJP leadership could not foresee the massive upsurge from the student community and civil society organisations who are raising questions about India’s existence as a secular democracy.