Word For Peace
New Delhi: As protests against the government’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) intensify across the country, the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the National Commission for Minorities have asked influential Muslim clerics to defuse the tense situation and appeal for peace.
The commission and the ministry have contacted Mufti Abdul Qasim Nomani, vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, Delhi-based cleric Mahmood Madani, imam of Lucknow Idgah Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi, Dewan of Ajmer Sharif Dargah Syed Zainul Abedin and Lucknow-based cleric Kalbe Sadiq.
These leaders have been asked to tell their community that the citizenship law is not anti-Muslim, that the NRC is not on the government’s immediate agenda and that there’s nothing to worry about, said Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi, chairperson of the minority commission.
Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government has also initiated public FAQs campaigns to differentiate between CAA and NRC, but at the last moment decided to involve Muslim community leaders to clear the confusion.
“Many videos and WhatsApp messages are doing the rounds on social media to create confusion among protesters, particularly the Muslims,” he said.
Rizvi told ThePrint that they have asked the Muslim clerics to allay fears of their community members.
“We are talking to prominent Muslim clerics and asking them to send the message that this (CAA) Act has got nothing to do with Indian Muslims, that the NRC is not on cards right now and that they need not worry. When NRC will be brought, there will be wider consultations,” he said.
Rizvi also said that a few elements are taking advantage of the situation and Muslims shouldn’t fall prey to it. “Police should also show restraint while dealing with the protesters,” he added.
The government wants the clerics to speak to their counterparts in Lucknow, Karnataka and Hyderabad.
Protests have gripped many parts of the country ever since the citizenship bill was passed in Parliament last week. In Delhi, Section 144 was imposed Thursday, but protesters defied curfew to march against the citizenship law, leading to the detention of hundreds of people.
Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari had issued a statement Wednesday, asking protesters to maintain peace and not to indulge in violence.
“There is a difference between Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. One is CAA that has become a law and another is the NRC that has only been announced. There is no need to worry,” Bukhari said in the statement.
A prominent cleric in Lucknow, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint the government wants to send the message of peace and calm. “When CAA and NRC will be brought, there will be wider consultations — this is the government’s message,” he said.
Govt’s own initiative
To counter false propaganda related to the citizenship law and the NRC, the home ministry and the Press Information Bureau have initiated FAQs campaigns on social media and other platforms to answer people’s queries.
On Thursday, the government also published advertisements in Hindi newspapers, saying the NRC will not be rolled out right now and there’s no cause for worry.
On Tuesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, speaking in a TV programme, also said no Indian citizen needs to worry and no one will be thrown out.
“We will make special provisions to ensure that no Indian citizens from minority communities are victimised in the NRC process. But we can’t leave the borders open as well. Countries are not run like that,” Shah said.
On the country-wide protests over the citizenship law, an official from the minority affairs ministry said they have been “caught unprepared”.
“During Ayodhya judgment, we had planned community meetings in advance to maintain peace. But this time, we didn’t anticipate that protests of this scale will take place. We should have been better prepared to avoid this situation,” he added.