Vijay Sagar Dheman
Delhi State has voted on Feb 8, 2020 to elect its new Government.Will this mean an end to anti Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests across the country? Does this mean that the ‘Shaheen Bagh conclaves’ in the most parts of the country will cease to function? Does this also mean that scores of rallies and functions being organised across the country in favour of CAA as ‘PRO CAA’ demonstrations will also end? The answer to all these questions will be available in coming days and will prove to be a test for Indian psyche which is largely emotional, selfish and bereft of intellectualism (being a democracy where everyone irrespective of intellectual credentials has the same voting rights) in nature.
The debate (read propaganda) began with introduction of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, giving rise to true/untrue versions of it. Itplayed havoc in the minds of Indians, whether majority or minority communities, depending on the short sighted vision of the concerned politician having a sole aim to advance the respective party ambitions in forthcoming elections.
Now what exactly this CAA is? This is an amendment/ addition to existing Citizenship Act of 1955 which allows 31324 individuals (2500 Hindus, 520 Sikhs, 100 Christians, two Buddhists and two Parsees) Indian citizenship on fast track basis, who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before Dec 31, 2014 because of religious persecution in their respective country. These registered 31324 individuals, including others who are unregistered, are living in various parts of India in inhuman conditions without basic rights. This act enables them to get into mainstream so that they can lead a decent life.
In 1947 after partition,when these minorities were persecuted in Pakistan (being an Islamic nation) there was an agreement between Nehru and Liyaqat Ali Khan that all minorities will be protected. However, Pakistan did not abide by the agreement and it resulted in migration of these people toIndia. India accepted these migrants but for some reason refused citizenship. Their plight was perpetuated till 2019. However, voices to grant them citizenship kept being raised from time to time by political leaders across the board. They includedforceful personalities like Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964, B R Ambedkar, Dr Man Mohan Singh,introduction of CAA in Parliament in 2003, StandingCommittee of Parliament on CAA, resolution adopted by Congress party in 1947 to grant them citizenship etc. Even so that the DMs of four districts of Rajasthan and two districts of Gujarat were given summary powers to allow migrants / minorities from Pakistan who were persecuted on religious basis.Now in 2019, Modi Government introduced CAB and got it passed in Parliament. One wonders as to how such strong protests against the CAA, have surfaced from all quarters. These range from political parties, leftist liberals, students, civil society and even from the foreign governments and media.
The environment is full of narratives perpetrated by different sections. Major one is that theCAA is anti-Muslims and post invocation of CAA, the Muslims in India will lose their citizenship. This narrative have resonated so widely amongst the ill-informed and less educated public in India that it has fructified the nefarious designs of opposition parties and forces inimical to India in the form of violence in cities and on the campuses of JNU, Jamaia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Shaheen Bagh and many such innocent premises. It is hard to believe that even children below 10 years of age, who hardly can read the text of this Bill leave alone understanding the implications,were also chosen to do hard sloganeering in front of electronic media. One wonders at the level of wisdom that has been displayed by opposition parties,some sections of society including students at universities without having read the contents of the act.
It is contented that this act will deny the rights of citizenship to existing Muslims in India who are as much Indian citizens as anyone else. Under no premise it has been spelt out that Muslims from Pakistan will not be eligible for citizenship of India and hence it is discriminatory to Muslims of this world. The grant of citizenship to Adnan Sami and offer of citizenship to Tariq Fateh and TaslimaNasreem are a testimony to this fact.In any case, Muslims from any country in the world who need citizenship in India, the provisions of Sec6 of Citizenship Act of 1955 do allow for that. Hence, the contention that it is discriminatory on religious grounds is grossly incorrect.
Legally speaking from constitutional point of view, it is contented by the detractors of CAA that it violates the provisions of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of Indian constitution. Arguments are forwarded that it is discriminatory to Muslims on religious grounds. The issue here is that theseArticles, as part of Indian constitution, are applicable to Indian citizens only. How an individual, who is not a citizen of India as yet, is covered under these Articles. How does he/she enjoy constitutional rights granted to citizens of India under the constitution of India who is not a citizen of India as yet? And the Muslims who are already citizens of this country who enjoy the fruits of these Articles do not invoke the provisions of CAA at all.
Similarly the provisions of concept of reasonable class legislation, as applicable to citizens of India,apply to the citizens who are equal as citizens of the India. Supreme Court of Indiais committed to preserve the basic structure ofIndian Constitution.The Supreme Court of India applies three point analytical check on any legislation passed by the Parliament, if it is challenged in the court. The checks are, firstly the objective of the legislation which should be Non arbitrary. CAA is absolutely non arbitrary.Secondly, it should qualify the tenets of Intelligible differentia i.e it should be very explicit and clear as to what categories/ contingencies it protects and what categories/ contingencies it does not protect. In case of this act,the application of the provisions is crystal clear and just. Thirdly, it should have clear Relational Nexus with the objective of the act. An apt analysis clearly spells out that CAA has a very clear non arbitrary objective of facilitating the end of inhuman and unjust misery of those people who are still suffering from the religious persecution perpetrated by the partition of the country in 1947. It very clearly specifies that it does not affect the present citizens of India irrespective of the caste, colour, creed and religion etc. as enshrined in Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25.
The argument that same could be extended to Rohingyas of Myanmar and Tamils of Sri Lankans who are also religiously persecuted, is purely a matter of policy to be decided by the Government/Parliamentof the day. The argument is forwarded that the Ahmadis, Hazaras and Shias of Pakistan could have been included. Evaluating this argument in true spirit of the primary objective of CAA, it is clear that these categories in Pakistan are not victims of religion persecution but of sectarian persecution. Persecuted Shias in Pakistan seek entry into Iran.Ahmadias and Hazaras seek entry into Bahrain and other European countries. However, this again is prerogative of Indian Government/Parliament of the day to given them special fast track provisions to get citizenship of India or not. This is especially when the provisions to get citizenship of India when the provisions of Sec 6 of Citizenship Act of 1955 exists for them to formally acquire the citizenship of Indiaon grounds which could be political, social, religious or even economicpersecution.
The numerous narratives doing the rounds from the backers of Muslim cause or espousers of the Governmentargument does not display a matured intellectual and just response. Not familiarising oneself with facts, blindly following the so called leaders with nefarious designs be it selfish motive of grabbing power or acting on behalf of forces inimical to India backed by foreign powers is a criminal act which a large section of Indian society has indulged in for last couple of months. Even Government has failed to project the correct essence of the Act to the Indian public in time. This coupled with some very irresponsible statements of party functionaries of party in power in centre have exacerbated the matter to a new nadir. Now that Delhi elections are over and the blitz Krieg of Modi government i.e.triple talaq, Ayodhya , 370/35A, Article 370 seems to be on the vain, one hopes that this unfounded misery of citizens of India will come to an end.
Vijay Sagar Dheman