India has been tolerant to people of different races and religions, customs and faiths. CAA certainly will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years. But a unified opposition is spreading lies and misleading students and as people.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019 has been passed by the Lok Sabha on 9 December 2019 and signed by the President on 12 December and has become Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019, which seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was passed in the Lok Sabha on the midnight of December,9, 2019.
The draft legislation was passed after division of votes with 311 in its favour and 80 against it, following a marathon debate which continued till 12.06 a.m. on December 10th, 2019 after beginning at about 4 p.m. on the previous day. A total of 48 Parliamentarians took part in the debate. The bill also crossed its final hurdle in the Rajya Sabha before becoming a law to provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh with 125 votes in favour and 105 votes against it in the Rajya Sabha.
Despite facing serious opposition, including from allies, the ruling BJP has expressed its determination time and again and went ahead with the bill. Though slammed by the major opposition parties as divisive and communal, the ruling BJP successfully got the approval in both the houses. The approval of the Bill in both houses is seen as another major victory for BJP following the major milestones achieved in the Modi 2.0 regime. In less than 180 days the Modi sarkar has successfully found a solution to issues that were pending for several decades – Triple Talaq (pending for over 7 decades), Abrogation of Article 370 (pending for over 6 decades), Ayodhya Ram Mandir (pending for over centuries) and now Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
While BJP claimed it as historic Bill the opposition dubbed the move as one to "kill secularism and Constitution of India" and "another attempt of partition" in the country in the name of religion and "violation of Article 14 of the Constitution".
Major opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen , Indian Union Muslim League, AIUDF, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party and YSR Congress Party opposed the Bill citing various articles of the Constitution. While the opposition vehemently opposed the CAB, the government rejected the opposition's claims, saying the Bill does not affect the Muslim community residing in the country.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah rejected the allegations of opposition members, saying the Bill is a move to "end the atrocities against crores of migrants". "I assure that the Bill does not violate any article of the Constitution and that no citizen will be deprived of one's rights. An attempt is being made to keep the Bill in bad light. "Every citizen has been given a place in the Bill on the basis of reasonable classification," said Shah.
"The people of the six minority communities who migrated to India following religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be given Indian citizenship as per this Bill. They are being given citizenship on the basis of reasonable classification. The Bill does not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution," Shah said.
"The Bill does not affect the Muslims residing in this country. The Muslims residing here will not face any problem. They live with dignity and will live with the same dignity," said Shah. “The Bill nowhere targets India's minority community, but illegal immigrants would not be allowed to stay in the country at any cost” Shah added.
The BJP-led government at the Centre has been refuting the charges made by the opposition parties that the bill is fundamentally unconstitutional and communal.
A closer look and history reveals that these neighbouring countries share an inseparable bond with the people of India. History reveals that all the three nations were an integral part of unified grand Bharat once. While majority of Hindus live in India, still a sizable population of Hindus live as a minority in these three nations. Soon after Pakistan was formed, Pakistan tried to intrude in Jammu and Kashmir and war erupted between two countries. The economic ties had been severed between India and Pakistan by December 1949. The country witnessed another major exodus of Hindus from East Pakistan which later became Bangladesh and Muslims from West Bengal.
The exodus of minorities Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists in Pakistan, and Muslims in India led to serious refugee crisis. The refugees were attacked by the majority communities in their respective territories. The grave situation led to talks with Pakistan and subsequently an agreement in Delhi in 1950 between Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan, the then prime minister of Pakistan.
The agreement was signed in the backdrop of large-scale migration of people belonging to minority communities between the two countries. But, while in India, the rights and security of the minorities have been continuously and effectively safeguarded, Pakistan has persistently contravened the provisions of the Pact through consistent neglect and harassment of the members of the minority community. In essence, the pact was signed to protect the rights of minorities on both sides, but only India followed it.
Not only Hindus, but all non-Muslims are subjected to greater torture and pain in these three nations. For decades India has been contemplating to lend a helping hand to these persecuted minorities.
Responding to criticism from the main Opposition party that the proposed law was “divisive” and “communal”, Shah accused Congress of dividing the country on the basis of religion during Partition. He said, "The Citizenship Bill was necessitated due to the partition of India. If the Congress had not done the Partition of the country based on religion, the government would not have brought the Citizenship Bill. Narendra Modi government is not just here to govern but to solve the issues of the country" said Amit Shah.
The opposition parties have conveniently sidelined the fact that the biggest migration of people in the world happened during the partition of India and Pakistan and the history clearly states that the country was divided only on the basis of religion. India was divided to give birth to a new Muslim country named Pakistan in 1947. While Pakistan declared itself as an Islamic country, the Congress leaders preferred to call India a “Secular” country.
Replying to criticism linking the Bill to the BJP’s idea of a “Hindu Rashtra”, Shah said that the population share of Hindus had decreased since Independence. “People are saying that the Indian Constitution is going to become a Hindu Rashtra. In 1951, there were 84 per cent Hindus, now it is 79 per cent. In 1951, Muslims were 9.8 per cent of the population, today they are 14.23 per cent. We have not done any discrimination on the basis of religion. And it will not happen,” Shah said.
Statistics reveal that in 1971in the undivided Pakistan, 23% of non Muslims lived in Pakistan. After the birth of Bangladesh, 3% remained in Pakistan and 20% moved over to Bangladesh. Since, then the percentage of non Muslims has been constantly dropping down in Pakistan and today it is estimated that only 1.6% of Hindus live in Pakistan. In Pakistan, Hindus, especially, are subjected to ethnic cleansing and targeted attacks.
Also there were reports that around 5,000 Hindus From 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million, left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination. It means on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually. Today the percentage of Hindu population has dwindled to just 10.7 %.
When Afghanistan was under grip of Taliban, non-Muslims were forced to flee the country for safety. At that time India opened its doors for the innocent people and welcomed both Muslims and non-Muslims as well and did not discriminate refugees on the basis of religion.
While some experts point out that since that some sections of the people from these three nations are umbilically tied to India, the persecuted minorities should be allowed to take refuge in the land of their ancestors.
But, critics question that then why does CAA not extend this benefit to Muslim refugees? But the fact remains that India need not be the home for a minority group that may find refuge in many other Islamic nations. Moreover, already three neighbourhood countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh and specifically Pakistan - were carved out of India exclusively for.
In fact the CAA is a belated response to the realities of the sufferings of the persecuted people in these three Muslim countries. There were several reports which vouch that the six communities are facing ethnic cleansing in their respective nations. It is indeed time to protect the right to life, property and practices of minorities who now face existential crises.
Some critics have quoted Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that says: "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth" and have argued that CAB "goes against constitutional guarantee of the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution."
Harish Salve, former Solicitor General of India clarified on the opposition’s accusation of violating the Article 14. He said, “The CAA aims to provide the persecuted minorities in these 3 countries a special status in the naturalisation process and it does not mean in any way that other communities or people will not be naturalised at all, for other communities the rules of general asylum process will be followed. So there is no violation of Article 14 in this regard”.
Replying to the question of why the CAA does not include Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Rohinyas of Myanmar, Salve said, “The Tamils in Sri Lanka are not religiously persecuted. On the issue of Rohinyas, a law that addresses one evil does not need to address all the evils in all countries. If immigration or naturalisation facility is provided to the Rohingyas, it can also be argued that why people from African nations are not being included”. “CAA is for the religiously persecuted minorities of the three specified neighbouring nations and it does not need to be applicable to all nations or all people in the world who have problems,” Salve added.
Many legal experts across the country have categorically refuted the opposition’s claim that the amendment violates Article 14. But the opposition parties continue to attack the government that the amendment is unconstitutional and infringes the Constitution’s basic structure and are engaged in misleading the people. While discussion and dissent are the pillars of democracy, the government cannot remain a mute spectator to violence.
CAA is morally and constitutionally correct. Further, CAA is not threatening to take away the citizenship of Muslims living in India. Moreover CAA is not for addressing governance issues in the three neighbouring countries but only to grant citizenship for only those who are persecuted religiously.
CAA has nothing to do with Indian Muslim citizens, as many politicians are indulging in fear mongering tactics. In fact the left-liberal media and opposition parties have gone on an overdrive in spreading propaganda against Modi government.
Most of their accusations against the CAA are based on lies or poor understanding of the bill. In 2003, former Prime Minister MM Singh then acting as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, demanded that the then BJP government at the centre should adopt a liberal approach for the persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan by granting them the citizenship.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, in his previous tenure, wrote to the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on the plight of Pakistani Hindus and Sikh migrants. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, on April 20, 2012, pleading that Indian citizens who had to flee due to persecution and discrimination on religious ground at the time of Partition should not be treated as foreigners. Even Prakash Karat, the then CPM general secretary, had written to Manmohan Singh in May 2012 regarding the citizenship problems of Bengali refugees. When the Modi government showed the courage to address this daunting issue, the opposition parties are misleading the people. But now the Congress is spearheading the attack against the CAB.
Among the opposition leaders West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was vociferous and described the bill as "divisive" bill and gave a clarion call to all opposition leaders to stand united against the bill at any cost"
While Mamata Banerjee vehemently opposes the CAB and NRC now, in 2005 her stance was completely different. Because then she was bent on opposing the CPI rule tooth and nail in West Bengal. This is what she said the in Lok Sabha: "Sir, I want to know from you sir, the infiltration in Bengal, it has become a disaster now. Illegal migrants from Bangladesh are also part of the voters’ list in West Bengal. Both lists of Bangladeshi voters and Indian voters are with me. I would like to request to you that it is a very serious matter asking, when will this matter be discussed?" she had said. Further, when the matter was disallowed by the then Speaker and CPI(M) leader Somnath Chatterjee, she had retaliated angrily and even sent her resignation.
But now after nearly one and half decades and remaining in power since, 2011, she has absolutely changed her stance on infiltration. She has declared repeatedly that “We will never allow NRC exercise and Citizenship Act in Bengal. We will not implement the amended Act, even though it has been passed in Parliament. The BJP can't just bulldoze the states to implement it."
This clearly exposes Mamata’s double standards. She accused the erstwhile Left Front government of facilitating illegal immigrants for votes, but now opposing the action against the illegal immigrants. Further Mamata Banerjee wanted UN to intervene in the CAA and NRC. She challenged the Modi government to go for an UN-monitored referendum over the amended Citizenship Act and the proposed nationwide NRC. She added that the BJP will have to quit if it fails such a “mass vote”.
After the two houses have voted unanimously for the passage of the bill, she demands UN intervention. It is a bizarre suggestion, that too from a democratically elected incumbent Chief Minister of a state. She is not ready to accept the approval of Indian parliament but want a foreign hand to find a solution. Will she go for a referendum on her popularity or on her governance in West Bengal? Let us not forget that the problems in Kashmir got aggravated mainly because of Jawaharlal Nehru went to UN council. Even for Article 370 opposition parties demanded but the centre approach UN but it did not accede.
If so then every state government will ignore Indian Parliament and demand a referendum for their issues with the UN council. Then what is the point in having elections and elected representatives?
AIMIM chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi said that giving citizenship on the basis of religion is against the principles of our Constitution and will be a dishonour to India's freedom fighters. He also accused the Centre of reviving MA Jinnah's two-nation theory. A furious Owaisi after his heated argument in the Lok Sabha, also tore a copy of CAB as a mark of his protest.
But, Owassi’s argument that the bill targets Indian Muslims and seeks to implement a "two-nation theory" does not hold water and is an absolute irresponsible statement. The fact remains that by no means the implementation CAB will threaten the Indian Muslims be it their rights, benefits or privileges. Any bona fide Indian Muslim citizen can continue to enjoy the same.
Mamata also accused BJP of wearing skull caps as Muslims and indulge in violence . Such irresponsible statements by leaders provoke innocent people and also lead to fear mongering. They spread wrong information that Muslims in the country will be treated as second citizens and also will be excommunicated from the society.
Many opposition leaders are engaged in a conflation of sustained and misguided propaganda. As a result there were widespread protest against CAA across India. Several universities have been shut as the political parties instigated the students to take part in the protests.
As the protest rages on across the country against CAA, several university students took to the streets and became the face of protests. Political parties conveniently hid behind the students and instigated violence. In couple of places the police had to barge in to campuses to control the agitating students. Many student unions affiliated to the political parties such as Congress and Left were at the forefront of the violence. As the students took the centre stage, the opposition parties fomented violence from behind. The BJP openly charged that the opposition parties are inciting the students and are staying firmly behind the students. Congress President Sonia Gandhi went to the extent of even justifying the student’s protests.
In a democratic country, everyone has the right to protest, but not indulge in riots. While the opposition parties accused police high handedness in the clampdown of the protests, police across the country submitted clinching video evidence of the involvement of anti-social elements in the garb of students that really escalated the violence in many parts of the country.
Opposition is united in their hatred towards Modi government and relentlessly spreading lies and inciting violence. There has been a deliberate campaign to malign the real cause for bringing in an amendment to Citizenship Act. In pursuit of seeking Muslim votes, the vested interest opposition parties are united in spreading the falsehood that the centre is targeting the Muslim community.
Though the amendment is linked with religion it is not entirely based on religion and also against a particular community as claimed by the opposition parties.
Certainly, there is mention of the religion in the amendment. But, it is only to make sure that it defines clearly those who are persecuted in the neighbouring three Islamic countries and who can avail the Indian citizenship. Also, the purpose of the amendment is not certainly to keep off the Muslims from entering India but in fact it has broad spectrum of protecting the minorities from all religions –in the three countries.
The opposition parties have deliberately twisted the facts and engaged in fear mongering in the minds of Indian Muslims and preparing to divide India on the religious basis. But now when BJP took the initiative, the opposition is talking about secular credentials.
Further, the constitution clearly emphasises that any bill approved by the parliament and passed as an act does not require the approval of any state and the ruling chief ministers cannot oppose the same. The statements of some of the prominent chief ministers are indeed disturbing and amount to a breach of the constitutional oath of office.
History has shown that India is a country that has been tolerant to people of different races and religions, customs and faiths. History reveals that from the days of Alexander the great to modern day British, India has traditionally welcomed people with diverse races, religions, customs and faith. What was once a predominantly a Hindu country has accepted Islam and Christianity and allowed them to flourish on its soil.
Several legal luminaries and constitutional experts beside academicians of repute across the country have repeatedly appealed the protestors that CAA will not pose any threat to the Indian Muslim community as claimed by the opposition parties. There is no iota of truth in the opposition’s sustained propaganda that the CAB is anti-Muslim and the centre is against the community. Statistics reveal that already since 2014 NDA government has given citizenship to 1595 Muslims that include 391 Afghans and 712 Pakistanis. How can the opposition accuse that the Modi government is against Muslims.
Also critics point out that the same yard stick is not been applied to the persecuted Shias, Ahmadiyar and Sufi Muslims of Pakistan. The opposition parties must understand that the kind of persecution faced different Muslim groups in Pakistan and Bangladesh is far different from the persecution faced by non-Muslims in the neighbouring three Islamic states.
Also, all nations across the globe offer asylum to people, in cases of political persecution. The CAA simply protects the interests of persecuted people who fled their countries for their lives and beliefs. It is a fact that India is doing today what the countries of origin of these people ought to have done, which is, to protect these minorities, and preserve their way of life.
CAA is pragmatic too and just protects the weak and the helpless people from the neighbouring three nations. It is needless to say, Indians following Islam will be completely untouched by the Act. They will not be asked to prove their nativity or any related matter. They face not even the slightest threat.
It is certainly true that CAA will provide the much needed relief to the persecuted religious minorities in the three neighbouring nations.
Though from time to time, various political parties, including the Congress, have voiced the cause of persecuted religious minorities, rightfully Modi 2.0 has guaranteed a dignified life to them.