Letter on Indians in Afghanistan is as a concerned citizen: Congress’ Shergill after CAA row

Congress' Jaiveer Shergill wrote to the foreign minister demanding India evacuate Hindus & Sikhs stuck in Afghanistan. This was construed by many as being in favour of CAA, a law his party opposes.

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill | Twitter/@JaiveerShergill
Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill | Twitter/@JaiveerShergill

New Delhi: Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill Monday urged the Modi government to immediately evacuate “around 650 Sikhs and 50 Hindus stuck in strife-torn Afghanistan”, leading to observations that he was in favour of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

Jaiveer tweeted the letter he has written to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, in which he has sought special visas for “Indian-origin” Sikhs and Hindus.  

Shergill’s demand, pertaining only to rescuing Hindus and Sikhs, immediately caught the attention of many on Twitter, who read his post as being in favour of the CAA, a law that has been fiercely opposed by the Congress party.

 

The BJP’s national spokesperson R.P. Singh also took a jibe at Shergill whom he “welcomed on board”, hinting that the letter echoed the CAA sentiment.

 

The CAA, passed in December 2019, seeks to make Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, and Parsi illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for Indian citizenship. 

The Act, however, saw massive protests as it was seen as being anti-Muslim in nature, and was vehemently opposed by the Congress.

Speaking to ThePrint, Shergill said he continues to stand against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), adding that his letter is in “no way a comment on CAA or Congress’ stand on CAA”.

“It’s a unique situation brewing in Afghanistan where several Indians are being targeted,” Shergill said. “The letter has been written as a concerned citizen seeking SOS help for those stuck in a conflict-ridden situation.”

Shergill further said that his letter is “not a commentary on the Congress’ stand on government policy” but is, in fact, an “urgent request on the same lines as Captain Amarinder Singh who had also sought the evacuation of Sikhs and Hindus via MEA intervention after a blast at a Gurudwara in Afghanistan in March 2020”.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had in March last year made a similar request to Jaishankar, demanding that Sikh families stranded in Afghanistan be airlifted. “In this moment of crisis, it’s our bounden duty to help them,” he had written.

Singh’s request had come after a gurdwara was subject to a terror attack in March 2020, killing 25 worshippers and injuring others. 

Shergill has cited the attack on the gurdwara in his letter, along with other incidents of targeting of Sikhs in the country in recent years — most recently, the Taliban removed the Nishan Sahib from a gurdwara located in Paktia province, which was subsequently restored.


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Stand by the fact that CAA-NRC is cocktail of disaster’

Shergill, however, insisted that his “letter is being mischievously misconstrued to serve the government’s propaganda”.

“Sad to see BJP once again resorting to cheap politics over such a sensitive situation,” he said.

In an article in The Hindu in December 2019, Shergill had argued that “the government’s decision to implement the CAA has thrown the Northeast into turmoil and shaken investor confidence”.

Shergill said he continues to stand by his position that the CAA and NRC is a “cocktail of disaster”.

“I stand firm to my stand that CAA + NRC in its current form is a cocktail of disaster for Indians of all religions, and via which, even Hindus and Muslims are being labelled alien in their own country (India) overnight, like 19.5 lakh in Assam,” he said. “And people on discriminatory grounds are being imported into India.”

Capt also made similar appeal, don’t confuse with CAA: Congress

Other members of the Congress stayed mum on Shergill’s demand, despite the controversy it created.

“This is a personal position, expressed in the capacity of a conscientious citizen by him. This shouldn’t be confused with CAA, where our stand is very clear,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.

The Congress party has reiterated its position against the CAA multiple times, even making it a poll plank in the Assam elections in April this year.

“The Congress’ position is clear. We have an issue with any law that is inherently discriminatory and biased, which the CAA is,” the leader added. “However, this letter is in the aftermath of a specific event that has taken place in a war-torn country. Captain Amarinder Singh’s appeal last year was also on similar lines. This can’t be confused with the CAA.”

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)


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