With protests across the country over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, that critics say discriminates against Muslims, BJP ally and Shiromani Akali Dal veteran Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday said that a government must not take sides based on religion and called for unity among all religious communities.
“It is a matter of grave concern that the present situation in the country is not that good. All religions must he respected. If a government wants to be successful, it must take the minorities along. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians should all feel like they are part of one family. They must embrace each other and not sow seeds of hatred,” Mr Badal said at a rally in Amritsar, in an apparent reference to unrest in the country over the citizenship law.
“It is written in our Constitution that our country will have secular and democratic rule. Any deviation from the sacred principles of secularism will only weaken our country. Those in power must work unitedly and tirelessly to safeguard India as a secular democracy,” the veteran leader said.
Mr Singh said that governments must go back to the teachings of Sikh gurus, who advocated brotherhood and socialism. Citing Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the veteran leader said, “He had appointed a Muslim foreign minister. He wasn’t worried about votes. He understood the true meaning of secularism, which our constitution talks about.”
Last month, the Shiromani Akali Dal, a member of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at the centre, had said it will not contest the Delhi assembly polls after disagreements with the BJP over seat-sharing. The Akalis had also said their refusal to accept the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act in its present form and the National Registry of Citizens, was also a factor in the decision.
In December, rifts between the Akalis and the BJP had emerged after Naresh Gujral, the SAD’s Rajya Sabha MP, told NDTV: “We feel the Muslim community should be included in the citizenship law”. He had also issued a veiled warning to the BJP at the time, saying several parties in the BJP-led front were unhappy with the way they had been treated.
However, the Akali Dal, late last month declared that certain “misunderstandings” between the two parties have been amicably resolved.
Due to the controversial citizenship law, Indian citizenship will be awarded on the basis of religion for the first time. The government says it will help non-Muslim refugees from three Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say the law violates secular tenets of the constitution.