People in Gurugram demonstrating in support of CAA
The Citizenship Amendment Act is not about religion. Neither is it about discriminating but helping those who are discriminated against. It is not about persecution, but about providing dignity by granting citizenship
The Indian Parliament enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), after passing the Bill in both Houses after an extensive debate. Last time, the Bill had lapsed because the Rajya Sabha did not pass it. Since then, in the name of protest, vulgar arson and rioting across India have created quite a storm. What is this Act? What are the objections to it and has the protest taken such an ugly shape? All this requires some explaining.
What is CAA ?
The CAA amends The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, eligible for citizenship of India. Under the 1955 Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation was that the applicant must have resided in India for 11 of the previous 14 years as well as during the last 12 months. The amendment relaxes the requirement from 11 years to 5 years as a specific condition for the applicants mentioned above.
Illegal immigration in India is an offence, so 'illegal migrants' cannot become Indian citizens. However, through this amendment, the Government exempted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Pharsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.
What was the need for CAA?
First, Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It is a fact that India was divided on the basis of religion, and millions of Muslims chose the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a nation created for Muslims. Since then amount of persecution of minorities can be gauged from the fact that at the time of Partition in 1947, almost 16 percent of Pakistan's population was Hindu, today they are just 1.5 percent. The proportion of non-Muslims population of Pakistan has declined from 23 percent to 3 percent. The Hindus in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) were 23 percent in 1951, and today they are 8 percent. On the contrary, since Partition, the Muslim population in India has grown from 9 percent to 16 percent.
No one has the gumption to deny that the minority population share in Pakistan and Bangladesh has decreased because millions are persecuted, converted, raped, and killed. The atrocities continue even today. In such a situation, like civilisational nations, which actively promote, protect, and nurture their heritage, the Indian Government acted. Each of these groups has civilisational ties with India for millennia and more. Their only natural home in the world is the natural home of their ancestors for centuries, India.
Violates Article 14: The fundamental criticism of CAA is that it specifically targets Muslims. How can the state differentiate between people based on religion violating Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality?
Article 14 indeed establishes the concept of 'equality' before the law, and the Indian constitution obligates the state to be religion-neutral. However, there is an exception called the “doctrine of reasonable classification.” It is a well-settled precedent that positive discrimination is not prohibited in the Constitution if the criteria for classification are reasonable.
Persecuted refugees Vs Economic Migrants:
It is fallacious to think that India has any business to interfere with the misgovernance of its neighboring countries and uplift the economic conditions of its citizens. They have to take care of their destiny in their own country. India's resources are for its people, and there is no obligation, moral or otherwise, on the Indian state to use its precious resources to sustain citizens of another country economically. Hence there is no merit in the argument to treat the economic migrants at par with refugees of religious persecution.
Anti-Muslim: One of the worst lies spread is that CAB is against Indian Muslims. The fact is that CAA has nothing to do with Indian citizens, Muslim or otherwise. How does a law that seeks to grant citizenship to foreign refugees already living in India affect Indian Muslims? It is only those Muslims who are illegal migrants here that will not be regularised under CAB as they are not victims of religious persecution that is the basis and the fundamental premise of this law.
India does accept all kinds of refugees, including Muslims, and the doors have not been shut for them as the general naturalisation law under Section 6 of the Citizenship Act remains available. One famous example is Adnan Sami. Taslima Nasreen, a politically persecuted person from Bangladesh, was also given asylum in India. Many are also falsely arguing that any Hindu can become an Indian citizen under CAB. It does not automatically give citizenship to the Hindus. They should have come only from these three countries and also lived in India, as stipulated in the law. Only after such qualification, they can apply for citizenship. For example, there are lots of Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka who are living in camps in India, but they have not been included in CAB. The exclusion of Sri Lankan Tamils does not make this law anti-Hindu either.
The biggest beneficiaries of the CAB will be Dalits and lower caste Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their daughters are routinely kidnapped, married off against their will, or are forcefully converted to Islam. For seventy years, these poor people ran for their lives and settled in Kashmir. But there, they were denied jobs, dignity, and fundamental human rights because of Article 370. No one shows any outrage today against the CAB raised any concern. Now that India is giving equal rights to Dalits in Jammu & Kashmir – it is called anti-Muslim! India gives refuge & citizenship to Dalits from Pakistan and Bangladesh; it becomes anti-Muslim. So, by opposing the CAB, they are once again showing their anti-Dalit mindset using Muslims as a pretext.
Why not Ahmediyas, Tamils, or Rohingyas: There is a fundamental difference between persecuted religious minorities and ethnic violence. Ahmediyas and Shias are victims of sectarian and ethnic violence and not religious persecution like Sri Lankan Tamils. Similarly, Rohingyas don't fall in this category of minorities who bore the brunt of Partition and hence are persecuted.
Also, there are reports that Rohingyas and other influx of migrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh are a threat to our national security as they bring an inherent risk of terrorism, bomb factories, and street violence. It goes without saying that without the CAB, genuine persecuted minority refugees in the country would feel harassed by the NRC process, causing further misery to the already marginalised and vulnerable people.
Concerns of North Eastern States: Although it is true that some people in North Eastern States, particularly in Assam, are protesting against CAA, their reason is entirely different. The protestors in Assam and other North-East states are against giving citizenship - neither Muslim migrants nor the non-Muslim persecuted refugees - regardless of religion, unlike the opposition to the Act over the exclusion of Muslims.
Their fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture have triggered deep anxieties. However, the Government has been sensitive, and CAB has a specific provision that excludes autonomous tribal regions under the Sixth Schedule. It means the areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram would be excluded. Moreover, Article 371, which provides exclusive rights to North-eastern states, will not be affected. States with an Inner Line Permit (required to enter states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram) that are excluded and extend this benefit to Manipur as well. A broader question to the political parties raking up this issue is- if you are pro-minority in India and that you believe in the protection of minorities within India, then why is it that you oppose persecuted minorities from the neighborhood? Just like they didn't have any argument against the abrogation of Article 370, they do not have any logic or reason to oppose CAB except lies and emotional rants based on fake secularism and election strategies based on fear-mongering.
Congress Party refuses to accept how they failed the nation in 1947. Who could dispute that Hindus were the victims of Partition? Who could believe that economic migrants should be treated the same as refugees escaping for their life? These political parties coming together under the fake-secular umbrella with the single aim of pushing a radical Islamist agenda is terrifying. The Partition of India was a cataclysmic event that violently uprooted millions of people from their homes, for no fault of theirs. The people who chose to live in then Pakistan found themselves in an Islamic nation governed by religious laws. It was Congress leader and PM Nehru who signed the Nehru-Liaqat Pact to ensure minorities are taken care of in their respective countries. While India not only stood by its minorities, it also gave them several privileges, Pakistan didn’t. When that hasn’t happened, shouldn’t the Congress itself lead from the front that India should fulfil its role as a protector?
The politicians, community leaders, students, media or the left-liberal commentators, not a single voice criticising the CAB is telling how it is against Indian Muslims with a single reasonable argument. All of them are shamelessly indulging in malicious fear-mongering spreading panic and paranoia with their toxic propaganda and outright lies.
This Act is about helping those who are discriminated against. It is not about persecution, but providing dignity by granting citizenship because they are not followers of the state religion of Pakistan and Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Without a doubt, one has to credit both PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah their articulation & firm determination for dutifully fulfilling an essential and long-pending civilisational duty.