By Abdul Rashid Agwan
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) has become the most controversial legislation since the promulgation of Constitution of India on 26 January 1950. Different arguments for and against CAA have been discussed in the Parliament, in media and even on streets, yet common people are highly confused regarding its short term and long term impact on them. The only big logic in favor of the Act has been that it is giving citizenship to some sections and taking away citizenship of none, so genuine citizens of the country should not worry.
The controversial Section 2(1) of CAA reads:
“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act.”
Here are 30 reasons that may convince people at large to reject CAA and demand from the government to either revoke it or amend it again to accommodate major arguments against it.
Citizenship is a secular contract
As an idea, Citizenship is a secular contract and does not have any basis for religious, racial and ideological affiliation. Nations comprise people adhering to different faiths, ideologies, races, etc who enjoy their citizenship in a prescribed manner. Hence, citizenship to anyone on religious ground is a retrogressive idea in a civilized world. In case of most people of a country, the question of citizenship is deemed settled at the very advent of a nation itself and those who join it later on are given citizenship in accordance with the native laws. Asking people to prove their citizenship after seven decades of an independent India, is nothing but illogical.
Against the Idea of India
The present day India is a factual outcome of the freedom struggle and represents the agreed upon Idea of India through its Constitution, which is inclusive, and all embracing. The mandate of the freedom struggle was for a secular India, not for Hindurashtra. Hence, any issue of citizenship should be decided accordingly. CAA demeans this.
Against the Constitution
CAA does not qualify on the existing constitutional provisions. It violates the spirit of the Preamble of the Constitution of India, wherein it has been stated, “We the people of India have solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic.” Secularism is a basic ingredient of the Constitution; hence the religious basis of CAA violates this ideal. CAA goes against the Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The first one obliges the Government to protect people on the basis of equality of law and the second one prevents it from discrimination on the basis of “religion, race, sex, place of birth or any of them.” CAA also violates the concept of Citizenship in the Constitution, which prescribes in the Article 9, “No person shall be a citizen of India by virtue of article 5, or be deemed to be a citizen of India by virtue of article 6 or article 8, if he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of any foreign State.” So CAA clearly violates and contradicts Article 9 by allowing Indian citizenship on whatever ground to some of those who have voluntarily chosen to be the citizens of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh at the time of the Partition.
A Communal Award
CAA is a kind of infamous communal awards in the past. In 1905, the British Raj divided Bengal, based on communal demography. It was fought by the people and had to be taken back in 1911. The notorious Communal Award of the British Government in 1932, granting separate electorates for different sections, was vehemently opposed by the national leaders and had to be partly corrected through Puna Pact within 38 days. Another Communal provision that exists today is the Presidential Order 1950 that provides for Reservations on the religious ground. Accordingly, only ‘Hindu’ SCs and STs were ensured reservations. Later on, firstly Buddhists and then Sikhs were included under a modified order. However, SCs and STs from among Muslims and Christians are still out of its ambit. The affected sections are continuously demanding for its rectification to undo the religious discrimination. It appears that CAA, 2019 is another communal ward and needs to be opposed by people till it is revoked.
Endorses Two-Nation Theory
Indian national leaders have rejected the Two-Nation Theory propounded by the Hindu Mahasabha and Indian Union Muslim League in their own ways and later on articulated by DV Savarkar in his concept of Hindutva. Even Pakistan had initially adopted a secular constitution. Dividing and discriminating citizens on religious ground, as seems under CAA, revives the Two-Nation-Theory which has already been dumped into the dustbin of history. CAA is a ghost of the two-nation theory which divided India in 1947.
Citizenship already exists, why then?
Citizenship has already been granted long back and 130 crore actual citizens do exist in the country. The combination of CAA with NRC redefines Citizenship, as apprehended, in a retrospective manner or at least it may be used as a tool to deny citizenship to many natives on technical grounds. The big question is why Citizenship of all Indians should be verified after seven decades of Independence, when it already exists. The logic to find out “a few lakh infiltrators” through this whole churning seems illogical and will lead to the same fate as of tracing black money through demonetization. It will only put crores of Indian citizens under an unnecessary scrutiny and miseries.
CAA/NRC represents another policy blunder
CAA/NRC is a product of grievous policy blunders of the past. India’s participation in Bangladesh War of 1971 seems a historical mistake which caused exodus of around 10 million refugees from Bangladesh. They included mostly the Bengali speaking Hindus from the newly formed country. Then, the question of citizenship of these refugees was raised from 1979 onwards by Assamese and Bodo speaking sections of Assam which led to Assam Accord of 1985, guarantying deportation of people who migrated from Bangladesh before 24 March 1971. However, only a few thousand persons could be identified and attempted to be deported, which was foiled by the Bangladesh Government by not accepting them. This failure frustrated the Assamese sections who alternatively demanded mass disenfranchisement of alleged Bangladeshis by marking them as ‘doubtful’ voters. However, this also could not resolve the issue of increasing political power of Bengali speaking sections in Assam and the thorough verification of nativity of all citizens of Assam was taken up in the name of National Register of Citizenship. However, the whole process left 13 lakh Hindus and 6 lakh Muslims out of the citizenship screening. In order to rescue a large population of Hindus from being denied citizenship, the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, popularly termed as CAA, was introduced. This is a series of policy blunders as regards citizenship of refugees/infiltrators and still counting.
Citizenship closes on 31st December 2014
There is a wide spread confusion regarding applicability of CAA. It is wrongly understood as a gateway to provide citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan for all times to come. It allows citizenship to only those who have entered India on or before 31st December 2014, and only those who have already been given legal protection under the existing laws being allowed to stay in India on long term visa. The opportunity of Indian citizenship to the listed sections is already closed after that day.
Relieves only 31 thousand refugees
It has been informed that CAA will be helpful in providing citizenship to only a small number of migrants from the three identified countries, who are presently living in India and have entered it on or before 31st December 2014. According to Intelligence Bureau, the immediate number of beneficiaries of the Act may be only 31,313 from all the notified religious communities under CAA, i.e. 25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, 2 Buddhists and 2 Parsis. They are staying in India on long term visa. Even when the CAA will be applied for Assam, it will enable citizenship of a maximum 5.42 lakh persons, says a minister of the state. That means, even most of Hindu Bangladeshis in Assam will not be able to avail this backdoor citizenship too. In Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 Christians were not included. Perhaps they were included to avoid an international outcry of the now enacted law.
Misleading data on infiltration
In a highly debated statement, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that there are crores of illegal infiltrators in India. Former Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal stated in Parliament in 2004 that there were 2 crore illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators in India. More recently, his current incumbent Kiren Rijju informed about this figure to be 2.4 crore. In spite of these official statements, there are no reliable numbers on illegal immigrants available. Samir Guha of Indian Statistical Institute finds these estimates to be “motivated exaggerated.” The propaganda that scores of migrants are settling in Assam stands void in the wake of decreasing growth rate of state population during some past decades. The population growth rate in Assam during 1991-2001 was 18.85%, whereas from the 2011 the decadal population growth has been noted to be 17.07%, showing a marked decrease in the demographic term.
It should be noted that 10 million immigrants, almost half of the stated figures of immigrants, reached India in consequence of Bangladesh War. It may be guessed here that the major population of Bangladeshi immigrants in the present time comprises due to the natural growth of this 10 million plus the earlier existing migrations. The confusion appears when no distinction is made between actual migration and population increase due to natural growth of the previous immigrant population. Since 1971, India’s population has doubled. So seems the population of Bangladeshi migrants who also got doubled and presently taken as 2 crore. According to Professor Barkat of Dhaka University, it were mainly Hindus who migrated from East Pakistan/Bangladesh, about 11.3 million from 1964 to 2013. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics the Hindu population of Bangladesh was 1.55 crore in 2014, which was estimated to be 1.7 crore in 2015. In one year, there is an increase of 1.5 million Hindus in Bangladesh. This indicates of a reverse trend of Hindu migration to Bangladesh. Though the boggy of infiltration place the annual figure of Bangladeshi immigrants to India to be in lakhs, the Director General, Border Security Force said in September 2018 that total 1,522 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were apprehended in a year.
Misleading data on ‘Missing’ Hindus of Pakistan
There is a blatant misinformation purposefully spread as regards decrease of Hindu population in Pakistan as a mark of persecution. Even the Home Minister Amit Shah mentioned in the Parliament that population of religious minorities in Pakistan has declined from 23% in 1947 to 3.7% in 2011. The fact is otherwise. According to the 1951 Census of Pakistan, the share of minorities’ population of both West and East Pakistan was 14.20%; it was 3.44% in the West Pakistan and 23.02% in East Pakistan. When Pakistan got divided in 1971, the major share of this non-Muslim population naturally remained in Bangladesh and not in Pakistan. The census of Pakistan in 1972 recorded population of religious minorities to be 3.25%, almost around the 1951 figure. In 1998 census, this figure escalated to 3.70%.
The Act does not speak of ‘religious persecution’
Though in public discourses the emotional logic for CAA is that it provides relief to ‘persecuted minority refugees’ and “would be proved a great act of benignity to the oppressed humanity” the amendment does not mention it like this. This is an open sanction to anyone from amongst the stated ‘refugees’ who can apply for citizenship.
The “laboratory of citizenship” destroyed itself
There was one country in history which experimented very much with its citizenship laws and now it is no more on the atlas. In fact, Yugoslavia termed as ‘laboratory of citizenship’ got divided into seven countries in 1991 on the issue of Serb Nationalism and after killings of as many people of that country as 133,000. During the last 20 years, Citizenship law has been amended three times; in 2003, 2005 and now in 2019. This certainly destabilizes society on the whims of the ruling class and may be dangerous for future India. Just imagine, there are more than 50 crore people in India who are not expected to have any kind of citizenship evidence. They will first face the bureaucratic strings and then have to run from pillar to post for citizenship. Those who would be left out the screening will have to accept on record that they were ‘refugees’ from some notified country. They will unnecessarily be made to accept that they were from some other country, while forgetting their actual roots. Any future government may change the present CAA and make their life miserable on the ground that they would be taken as self-declared ‘foreigners’.
Bangladesh is more developed, why they will come?
It is also wrong to assume that Bangladeshi Muslims will come to India as illegal infiltrators in large numbers. In terms of development, Bangladesh is better than India since many years. Its GDP is better, which is growing at the rate of more than 8% for past many years. On many human development indices, Bangladesh is slatted higher than India. So, why the people from Bangladesh will infiltrate to India in large numbers and that too regularly? The major reason for limited human migration from there is said to be human trafficking. The better development of Bangladesh is now trending reverse migration of even Hindus to Bangladesh as mentioned above.
Detention is a short term arrangement
Chronologically, the CAA will guide the process of citizenship verification. The screened out people will be sent to detention centers since they cannot be deported back to the three mentioned countries under CAA. Detention is per se a short term arrangement. How it can be carried out sine die? At any point of history, there will be no way than to give them citizenship. Then, why is this whole conundrum for CAA/NRC? Citizenship could have been accorded to anyone under the existing laws whom the government want to and there was no need for amending it in the controversial manner as in case of CAA., 2019.
Leads to modern slavery
Detention centers can be visualized as the promoters of modern slavery. They will ultimately be run by corporate as ‘private jails’ as in USA. Capitalists will run them for their own profit motives. The detainees will be treated as bonded labor, without any right and basic amenities.
Undermines human dignity
Detention is against human dignity and the concept of freedom. If it develops into modern slavery and bonded labor, then it will further undermine human dignity which is not acceptable in a civilized world. It is against the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. Article 23 ensures that any forced labor should be treated as violation of the Right against Exploitation and a punishable offense in accordance with the law.
The allegation of large-scale infiltration puts blame on security forces
The political debates around infiltration leave the boarder as if there is no one to prevent the infiltrators. In fact, Border Security Force guards the Indian border meticulously, and it should have been guarding the Bangladesh border as well. It is pathetic to hear from the politicians that personnel of the BSF might be allegedly sold on Rs 50-100 for allowing infiltrators to enter the Indian territory. If there is such a problem, then how many officers have been taken to task?
The burden of proof is on the government
If anyone is ‘infiltrator’ then the investigation agencies should find out and prove one so. The proof of burden in law is that of the accuser than of the accused one. The Government has police and intelligence bureaus, which can easily find out whether there is anyone living in India as ‘infiltrator’ or not and prove it beyond doubt so. Then, why 130 crore people should prove themselves to be genuine citizens of the country. Why would all citizenship cards such as EPIC, driving license, Adhar, Passport, etc become redundant? It is just nonsensical.
Huge funds will be required
It is been mentioned that implementation of CAA/NRC will require huge funds, estimated from Rs 54,000 crore to more than one lakh crore. In a shattered and decline economy like ours, it will be a huge burden in itself and with no concrete and sensible purpose. Most people would be burdened by corruption and would add into this heavy economic loss. It has been estimated that around 50 crore people are expected not to have any desired evidence and face work loss for running from pillar to post for documentation. The only beneficiaries of the whole situation would be those who could exploit it for their own personal advantage like government officials and police.
Threat to national security
Allowing citizenship on emotional ground of favorable religious identity might lead to compromising national security in some way. The agencies working against India may send their agents under the cover of ‘persecuted’ Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist or Parsis from the notified countries, who may then harm the country in many ways. This issue has already been raised in the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Disallows citizenship to Muslim refugees from Afghanistan
A large number of victims of religious persecution in Afghanistan have taken shelter in India since the Russian invasion in 1979, followed by the civil war there. Majority of them are Muslims. Out of 2 lakh refugees from there, only a few thousand are Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. The vast majority of these refugees, Muslims, whom India has given humanitarian shelter for past many decades, will be disallowed any citizenship though their fellowmen will be provided it. It will be merciless discrimination among the persecuted people themselves. Due to religious and political reasons, Afghani Muslims cannot go back to their country nor may the government find itself in a position to deport them. Consequently, they will be forced to live an undignified life. This is not acceptable in a civilized society.
Invitation to exodus
Seeing the Indian government pliant in accepting certain religious groups from other countries as citizens, their large number may tend to migrate to India on different pretexts. CAA is an invitation for exodus of people who have voluntarily chosen non-Indian citizenship at the time of Independence.
Threatens lives of Hindus in other countries
Implementation of CAA will give political excuse in many countries to harm Indian diasporas there, particularly in countries having large number of Hindus such as Bangladesh, Fiji, Surinam, etc. In Fiji, where Hindus comprise 30% of the population, a prime minister of Indian origin was dethroned by the native Christian majority in 1999 in consequence of ethnic conflicts. The ghost of ethnic conflicts is always haunting Fiji time and again. Millions of Hindus are living in Muslim countries and may face persecution or deportation due to the enactment of CAA/NRC in India. Such a situation may arise anywhere for Hindus, on the pretext that they have their own homeland in the form of India. If the world accepts citizenship as a religious entitlement, besides others, Hindus living in far away countries may face the heat of CAA sooner or later.
Denies significance of natural human migration
CAA screens human migration on religious grounds but it has been there due to plethora of reasons and from many parts of the world since time immemorial. It is always not due to negative reasons. After all, the world everywhere is made of migrants only; may be on varying timescales. The land basically belongs to its Creator and nations are an artificial construct and denote only a civil arrangement. Likewise, India is also a land of migrants. The aboriginal people came to India from Africa in antiquity. The later tribal migration was there from Southeast Asia. The Indus people migrated eastwards and southwards into the mainland of present day India from what is presently the Af-Pak region. Scores of tribes migrated from the West Asia to the land during the early historical times such as Hun, Shaka and Kushana and up to medieval period. Parsis and other people of Iranian origin settled in India when religious demography started changing there after Islam. Chitpavans appeared in Konkana region during early 18th century and acquired eminence in Indian life in the days to come as Peshwas. People from many European countries got naturalized in India and settled here during the British period. In fact, there is no ethnic group that could claim India as it’s. It belongs all or to none. CAA does not recognize this very historical fact.
We are living in a globalized world where boundaries of nations are only becoming weaker. Adoption of radical Hindu nationalism in the present age is like going back to the tribal age. It also goes against the stated principle of humans as one Family (Vasudhaiv Kutambakam). The process of globalization is making the world one whereas aggressive nationalism is dividing humanity into hostile groups. CAA in fact leads to situations against humanity.
Promotes racism and apartheid
The principle of citizenship without discrimination of people on any ground is a sound principle of the civilized and democratic world. If India is to prosper in the galaxy of nations it should not do anything which may promote racism and apartheid. CAA is surely going to consolidate the idea of race and inter-race hegemony.
Violates UN conventions
Article 15 of the Universal Declration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” UN High Commission on Human Rights upholds that “international human rights law provides that the right to States to decide who their national are is not absolute in particular, States must comply with their human rights obligations concerning the granting and loss of nationality.” CAA is blatantly against the universal human rights and goes against India’s commitments under the international laws by denying citizenship to many categories of people and allowing some of them.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become the recent most benchmark of human development and progress in the present future world. India is a signatory country to this UN vision. As CAA/NRC will lead to entitlement of citizenship on the basis of admissible documentary evidence, it is likely to categorize around 500 million out of that entitlement and hence all rights to develop as genuine citizens of India. Approximately, 13 crore nomads, 12 crore STs, 40% SCs, 50% of minority populations, crores of displaced, homeless and landless people and many others will not be in a position to prove their nativity due to absence of any proof and may lose all rights provided under the Constitution and law. Whereas SDGs are to ensure that “No one is left behind”, but losing citizenship under the CAA/NRC, millions of people may be pushed to untold vows of invisibility. India may miss the opportunity of achievements under the SDGs under the apprehended legal anarchy.
Disregards the concept of Hindustan
The now taken as ‘holy’, national boundaries in the Indian subcontinent have changed many times, even around five times after Independence. The broader concept of Hindustan does not signify any religious dominance but a geographical affiliation. Present day India is not Hindustan. Hindustan is a land historically understood to be stretching from Afghanistan in the west to Maynmar in the east. Hence, all people living in the countries within this vast territory share history, culture, languages, traditions and many more things. CAA differentiates among people living in this vast Hindustan on religious grounds and hence denies many facts of Indian life and culture.
Mahatma Gandhi has been wrongly quoted in midst of debates on CAA. He said in the context of woes of Partition and against ill-treatment to some religious communities of Pakistan at time, “To secure justice for the Hindus and Sikhs was the function of the Government.” However, he also warned 9 days later in his statement, “Pakistan has to bear the burden of its sins, which I know are terrible enough. It should be enough for everybody to know my opinion …we of the union copied the sins and thus became fellow sinners. Odds became even. Shall we now awake from the trance, repent and change or must we fall?” (Delhi Diary, M. K. Gandhi, 24-11-1947, Page 202)