Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, December 22, said that India does not have detention centres and no Muslims are being detained in the country, attacking the opposition for "spreading lies" amid fierce protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The PM was speaking at a rally at Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, where he chose to start his speech with an unusual chant, "Vividhta me ekta, Bharat ke visheshta" (Unity in diversity is India's speciality).
Referring to opposition parties as the "remote control" behind the current anti-CAA agitation, PM Modi said, "The Congress and its allies - some Urban Naxals - are spreading rumors that all Muslims will be sent to detention centres. At least value your education... at least read once about the Citizenship Amendment Act."
"Those who are the Muslims of this country's soil, they have nothing to do with the citizenship law and the NRC. Neither is anybody sending the nation's Muslims to detention centres nor are there any detention centres in India. This is a white lie which is dividing the nation," he added.
Though the focus of the rally was the upcoming Delhi Assembly election where the BJP's state unit drummed up the fact that the Centre regularised illegal colonies that benefitted thousands, Modi chose it to be the platform to answer the raging opposition against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
"Citizenship Act doesn't apply to any Indians - be it Hindu or Muslim. It applies to the refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.
Referring to the controversial demand of the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee for a UN-monitored referendum on the issue, Modi said she had a different position on the subject a few years ago. "Didi, what made you change your mind?" asked Modi.
The Prime Minister recalled how, a few years ago, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had supported the idea of giving refuge to Hindus and other minorities from Bangladesh. "If the Congress can support Manmohan Singh, why is it a crime if I propose it?" he said.
He also recalled that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who in his previous term had supported the idea of granting citizenship to Hindus and Sikhs. "Why is he silent now?"
Opposition hits back
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. "Modi and Shah have destroyed your future. They can't face your anger over the lack of jobs and damage they've done to the economy. That's why they are dividing our beloved & hiding behind hate. We can only defeat them by responding with love towards every Indian," he wrote.
Congress has come out in support of the students and other aggrieved citizens and has attacked the government for not listening to the people's voice.
Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said on Saturday: "There has been a widespread resentment against the recent actions of the BJP government amongst the people across the country, especially amongst youth, and calls for respecting the sanctity of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution."
He alleged that the "dictatorial and stubborn" BJP government at the Centre and in different states have used "indiscriminate police force" against ordinary citizens in the name of maintaining law and order.
"This has led to further worsening and spiralling of the situation and the Congress is committed to upholding the principles enshrined in the Constitution and fight for the continuation, maintenance and safeguarding of the rights of all, as enshrined and guaranteed by our founding fathers," he added.
(With agency inputs.)