New Delhi: Stating that the "spirit of resistance has awoken", opposition parties on Monday called for repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act and "immediate stoppage of the NRC/NPR" on grounds that the "package" is unconstitutional and targets the poor and downtrodden.
The meeting, convened by the Congress, saw chinks in the opposition ranks with leaders of about 20 political parties attending it but six major parties – DMK, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Shiv Sena – choosing to stay away.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren of the JMM and LJD chief Sharad Yadav were among those who attended the meeting.
While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the protests against the CAA and the NRC reflect widespread frustration and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of diverting attention from real issues such as the economy, her son Rahul Gandhi challenged the prime minister to visit any of the troubled campuses and speak on what he is going to do for the country.
"The CAA, NPR and NRC is a package that is unconstitutional, which specifically targets the poor, the downtrodden, the SC/STs and the linguistic and religious minorities. The NPR is the basis for the NRC. We demand the withdrawal of the CAA and the immediate stoppage of the nationwide NRC/NPR," stated the joint resolution adopted at the meeting.
It said all chief ministers who have announced they will not implement the National Register of Citizens in their state must also consider suspend the National Population Register enumeration which was a prelude.
The resolution also listed three dates -- Subhas Chandra Bose's birth anniversary on January 23, Republic Day on January 26 and Mahatma Gandhi's martyrdom day on January 30 – on which to peacefully and appropriately defend the Constitution and safeguard the secular democratic republic.
"A spirit of resistance has awoken. We urgent every fellow Indian to strengthen this spirit by joining in solidarity to observe January 23 is the birthday of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose," the resolution said.
On Republic Day, people should read the Preamble of the Constitution and take oath to safeguard it. And on January 30, highlight Mahatma Gandhi's relentless campaigns in pursuit of communal harmony.
The BJP, it said, has embarked on a "dangerous course of sharpening communal polarization and attacking democratic rights and Constitutional guarantees of the people affecting millions of people and marginalized communities".
Addressing the meeting, Sonia Gandhi said the nationwide spontaneous protests by youth supported by citizens reflect widespread frustration and pent up anger She also alleged that the response of police in UP and Delhi has been "shockingly partisan and brutal".
"The prime minister and home minister have misled the people. They have contradicted their own statements of only weeks ago, and continue with their provocative statements while remaining insensitive to the state suppression and violence that is increasingly becoming commonplace," the Congress chief said.
She said the real issue facing India today is the collapse of economic activity and slowing growth and development affecting all sections of society, especially the poor and disadvantaged.
"The prime minister and home minister have no answers and want to divert the nation's attention from this grim reality by raising one divisive, polarizing issue after another. It is for us to work together and thwart the designs of this government," she said.
After the meeting, Rahul Gandhi echoed her and said Modi was doing the biggest disservice to the nation by dividing it and distracting the attention of people.
He said the prime minister should stand up and have the courage to speak to the youth on why the Indian economy has become a disaster and why there is highest unemployment in 50 years.
"Unfortunately, the prime minister does not have the guts to stand in front of the students of this country and tell them so he crushes them using the police...I challenge the prime minister right now, to go to any of the universities, stand over there without his police, without his infrastructure and tell the people what he is going to do for this country," he said.
Rahul Gandhi said the discussion at the meeting centred on the mood in the country with students and people of all religions and communities coming out.
“There is a feeling of anger and fear in our students, in the weaker sections, in the farmers... The opportunity that India had has been lost, let me tell you. We are busy discussing everything except the main issue, which is joblessness and our economic strength. This is being destroyed by Mr. Narendra Modi,” he alleged.
The opposition meeting also expressed their solidarity with the protesting students in their bid to win over the youth and students. Sources said the opposition is seeking to take the students' movement forward and have lent support to their cause.
Asked to comment on the parties which skipped the meeting, his party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad said the opposition is together.
"They may or may not attend the meeting, but we are all together and united on the subject and purposes of CAA, NPR and NRC. There is no question of any division," he said.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury agreed and said some parties had not come but had expressed their support.
"The question is not individual political parties, but to save the Constitution," he said.