After Kashmir, BJP targets Citizenship Act

As apprehended, BJP Government has not stopped with its anti-Muslim centric agenda by revoking special status constitutional clauses; 370 and 35A alone. Despite the continued curfew and state imposed suppression during last four months, the fear of political unrest in Jammu and Kashmir valley has not let the Government to show any let up in its highhandedness. Businesses are closed, shops are shut, schools are off and fruits are left to rotten. The people of barricaded state are forced to stay indoors with fear, uncertainty and inhumane social and economic miseries. Internet service is still down and outside visitors are not freely allowed to arrive or visit the area. Cries of world media have met with the deaf ears of Modi led BJP government.

The BJP Government has not waited for the political normalcy to return in the valley. Rather, it has taken another step to destroy the so called secular spirit of the Indian Constitution. On December 4, the Cabinet signed off on a legislation that stands to give citizenship to certain religious minorities but not Muslims. In the first term of Modi government, this bill was proposed in 2016. At that time, the bill failed to garner enough support in the upper house.

The amendments to the six-decade-old Indian Citizenship Act, could be tabled before the lower house of parliament as soon as this week. BJP leadership is hell bound to push this bill ahead despite severe sever back lash from opposition parties as well from social media. Various press reports suggest that senior opposition leaders have asserted that the Citizenships Amendment Bill (CAB) 2019 “violated the basic tenets” of the Indian Constitution.

“I think the Bill is fundamentally unconstitutional because the basic idea of India has been violated in the Bill. Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood... that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maluana Azad, Dr. Ambedkar have said — that religion cannot determine nationhood,” Mr. Tharoor said.

“It is simple. Citizenship cannot be determined by or linked to religion. This is what makes the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) unacceptable and unconstitutional. The CAB is aimed at destroying the basis of India. India’s citizens are its citizens, irrespective of what faith they follow or don’t, what they eat, what work they do, their caste, creed, place of residence, gender or color of skin. No to Citizenship Amendment Bill,” Mr. Yechury said in a tweet.

“We are opposed to this. By abrogation of Article 370 they plunged Jammu and Kashmir into turmoil and now, by bringing the Citizenship Amendment Bill they will push the whole country to the brink, especially the northeast,” Communist Party of India general secretary D. Raja said.

Guatam Bhatia, a Delhi based lawyer, wrote in his recent comments that Indian Citizenship Act was made law in 1955 and is the basis by which citizenship was extended to Indians from all states. The act has provisions to determine various kinds of citizenship including that by birth, by registration, by naturalization or by descent. This act is the one where amendment is being proposed. The clause being amended is the one that defines illegal migrants and their ability to apply for citizenship by naturalization.

The Amendment stipulates that “persons belonging to minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan... shall not be treated as illegal migrants for the purposes of that Act”.

As one Indian political analyst opined that the bill, if passed, would change a key part in the category for illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan - Muslim-majority states that were once part of the undivided India as defined in the Government of India act 1935.

What is the stance of Modi Government? BJP Government has defended this controversial move by saying that Muslims are not included because they are able to take refuge in Islamic nations across the globe. The reasoning is that non-Muslim minorities in these nations (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan) are susceptible to persecution based on religion. Majority has a driving seat in democracy, so does the BJP Government. But bulldozing the very basis of a constitution to achieve narrow identity political gains is the downside of democracy. As acclaimed Indian historian Dr Guha has frequently written that Indian state has many faultiness; religion being one of that and the most dangerous one.

In pursuit of Hindutva rule in India, BJP has taken another step to further suppress the largest community, step aside the secular spirit of Indian Constitution and undermine the very promise of democracy that every citizen has equal rights. Sure, not a good omen for the largest community of India and the secular outfit of its Constitution.

The writer is a political economist, a writer and an Urdu Columnist.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt