In a significant shift from their earlier stance, both major Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, led by Chief Minister M K Stalin’s DMK and the AIADMK, have pledged to resist the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rules in the state. The announcement comes amid widespread protests and misinformation surrounding the CAA, which was passed by Parliament in December 2019.
After the CAA received Presidential assent, protests erupted across the country, with certain segments, particularly among Indian Muslims, expressing opposition. Various political parties, including Congress, Left, DMK, TMC, SP, and RJD, known for their minority appeasement policies, actively supported the protests.
The sit-in protest at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, lasting from December 15, 2019, to March 24, 2020, was a notable demonstration against the CAA. Despite clarifications from the Central government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and others asserting that the CAA was aimed at providing citizenship to persecuted religious minorities (Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered India before 2014, misinformation persisted.
The protests also led to a deferment of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CAA issue became a focal point for those opposing the government, fueled by misinformation and a perceived threat to the rights of Indian Muslims.
In a recent public address in Kakdwip, South 24 Parganas in Bengal, Union Minister of State for Ports, Waterways, and Shipping, Shantanu Thakur, asserted that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would be implemented across India within the next seven days. Thakur, who is also the BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Bengal’s Bangaon, echoed the sentiments expressed earlier by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, emphasizing that the CAA stands as the law of the land.
Addressing the public gathering in Bengali, Shantanu Thakur stated, “I can guarantee that in the next seven days, not just in West Bengal, but the CAA will be implemented across India.” He accused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of misguiding the public on the CAA issue, reinforcing the government’s commitment to its implementation.
Central senior government officials hinted that the rules for the CAA would be notified “much before” the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, underscoring the government’s determination to move forward with the legislation.
In response to these developments, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin took to his social media handle, categorising the CAA as “anti-Muslim and anti-Lankan Tamil.” He affirmed that the CAA would not be implemented in Tamil Nadu, recalling the resolution passed against the CAA by the TN State Assembly in 2021.
Stalin, in a post in Tamil, declared, “I firmly say that we will not let the CAA set foot in Tamil Nadu. #NoCAAinTamilNadu.” He expressed concern over the BJP government’s actions potentially disrupting communal harmony and criticised the AIADMK for its perceived support for these initiatives.
ஏழு நாட்களில் மேற்கு வங்கம் மட்டுமல்லாது இந்தியா முழுவதும் #CAA நடைமுறைப்படுத்தப்படும் என்று கூறியிருக்கிறார் பா.ஜ.க.வைச் சேர்ந்த ஒன்றிய இணையமைச்சர் ஒருவர்.
— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) January 31, 2024
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, currently on a foreign tour to Spain to attract investments, responded to Union Minister Shantanu Thakur’s recent announcement that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would be implemented across India within seven days. Stalin reiterated his strong opposition to the CAA, emphasizing that his government in Tamil Nadu would not allow its implementation.
Stalin, addressing concerns raised by the BJP minister’s statement, highlighted the historical context of the CAA’s passage, noting that the bill had received support from the AIADMK, despite its known implications against minorities. He recalled DMK’s role as the opposition at the time, organising protests and collecting two crore signatures against the CAA, which were sent to the President of India. After coming to power in Tamil Nadu in 2021, Stalin’s government passed a resolution urging the Centre to recall the CAA, and he reiterated that the state would stand firm against its implementation.
On the flip side, AIADMK general secretary Edapadi K Palaniswamy, formerly aligned with the NDA, has taken a different stance, now expressing opposition to the CAA. Despite AIADMK’s previous support for the legislation in Parliament, Palaniswamy has reversed his position, emphasizing that his party would not allow minorities to be adversely affected by the law. AIADMK, now estranged from the NDA, has been actively positioning itself as anti-BJP and anti-minority.
Palaniswamy’s newfound opposition to the CAA includes attending a conference organized by SDPI, a Muslim outfit, in Madurai, where he assured them of being their savior. He accused the DMK of using the pretense of opposing communalism for political gain, alleging that DMK aligned with the BJP when in power and opposed it when out of power. AIADMK’s position in the assembly was clear – it would not hesitate to oppose the CAA if it caused hardships to Muslims and Sri Lankan Tamils in Tamil Nadu.
Palaniswamy emphasised that AIADMK, as a safety wall, would always protect the interests and welfare of Muslims. He accused DMK of betrayal in the aftermath of the 1996 Coimbatore serial blasts, claiming that DMK remained a silent observer and did not support Muslims who had rallied behind it hoping for backing.
CAA சட்டத்தால் சிறுபான்மையின மக்களுக்கு பாதிப்பு ஏற்படுவதை அனைத்திந்திய அண்ணா திராவிட முன்னேற்றக் கழகம் ஒருபோதும் அனுமதிக்காது.
CAA சட்டத்தால் தமிழகத்தில் உள்ள இஸ்லாமியர்களுக்கும்,
ஈழத் தமிழர்களுக்கும் பிரச்சனை ஏற்பட்டால் எங்கள் அரசு பார்த்துக்கொண்டு சும்மா இருக்காது என்பதை…
— Edappadi K Palaniswami (@EPSTamilNadu) January 31, 2024
In Tamil Nadu, the political landscape is witnessing intense competition between the Dravidian parties, DMK and AIADMK, as they strive to secure the support of minority communities, particularly Muslims. Recent resolutions and statements reflect this competition, with both parties making efforts to address the concerns of minority groups.
Last August, both parties jointly adopted a resolution in the State assembly urging the premature release of 33 Muslim prisoners, including those sentenced in the Coimbatore serial bomb blast cases. In April, the DMK government passed another resolution, supported by all parties except the BJP, seeking reservation benefits for Adi Dravidars who have converted to Christianity.
In a strategic move, AIADMK’s former chief minister, Edapadi K Palaniswamy, attended a conference organised by the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) in Madurai. In response, CM MK Stalin called for a meeting to address the concerns of the minority community, focusing on issues such as constraints in cemetery space. During the meeting, he announced forthcoming measures for minorities, including extending the benefits of the ‘Pudumai Penn’ scheme to Tamil medium students in government-aided minority schools and providing free breakfast for children in classes one to five in aided minority schools in rural areas.
However, the political discourse in Tamil Nadu has not been without controversy. Stalin’s son, Udhayanidhi, stirred controversy in September by suggesting that Sanatana Dharma should be eradicated, drawing criticism from various quarters.
Leaders from the DMK and its allies have been making veiled remarks against Hindus, Hindutva, and Sanatana Dharma, mocking their beliefs in an attempt to project a true secular image. This has led to accusations of betrayal from the Hindu community, which has traditionally supported these parties.
Meanwhile, on January 3, AIMIM President Asaduddin Owaisi criticized the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), labeling it as “unconstitutional” and arguing that it is constructed on religious grounds. This criticism follows the Centre’s indication that the rules for the CAA would be officially notified “much before” the announcement of the Lok Sabha polls.
As the political narrative in Tamil Nadu revolves around appeasing minority communities, the parties are navigating a delicate balance to secure their support while also facing criticism from other segments of the population. The upcoming political landscape in the state promises to be dynamic, with the nuanced dynamics of secularism and minority appeasement playing a pivotal role.