Shafeeq R. Mahajir
Two people both living in the same house speaking the same language subscribing to the same faith, agree together to form a partnership each with the same rights and responsibilities in its working and its benefits. The partnership works for 70 years but one partner is always a suspect. Slow erosion of his rights happens then the other partner imagining himself superior decides the partnership terms will now be different. He will dominate, usurp, his methods only apply, the other can remain only at the dominant one’s mercy, can be thrown out of the partnership benefits if the dominant one so decides. The matter goes to court. Should the Court not throw out the stand of the allegedly dominant partner terming it a fraudulent distortion of agreed terms, which it is? The law for one rupee being the same as for a thousand crore, legal principles remain unalterable.
Now extrapolate. Large groups of people from different states, of different philosophical and ethnic communities of different ideological moorings, different religious faiths speaking different languages come together and decide that they will be governed by one Constitution. Things don’t work well for 70 years: the Princes and Rajas are given Privy Purses, told these are perpetual, even Courts cannot touch these. Then, Titles are abolished, Privy Purses are abolished. Cases are filed. Courts say they can’t help: non-justiciable, you see. What was projected as protection from even legal assault, is shown up as actually exclusion from access to the Law: rights gone, remedy found illusory. Constitutional fraud begins. Throughout, the Muslim always remains suspect. The slow fraudulent erosion of rights picks up tempo generally, but primarily the Muslim is maligned. As history is distorted, demonisation plays out. Lynching happens. An old, cold case is warmed up, then ends in a significant decision. The test case, ah! Now, endgame, to exterminate.
Some bright spark has thought up CAB. The matter goes to Court. Remember, legal principles remain unalterable, or should. The court ought to throw out the stand of the one who thinks up NRC and CAB, calling it a fraudulent distortion of the Constitution, which it is. We wait and watch. As we did in the Babri Masjid.
CAB is now law. The Act, attacking core fundamental Constitutional rights, violating fundamental guarantees under Ars. 14 and 21, enacted ignoring the 1985 Assam Accord, sidestepping the law laid down in Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India (2005) 5 SCC 665, breaches obligations under International Covenants which obligations under Art. 51 India is bound to honour. As only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are eligible for Indian Citizenship, it discriminates against Muslims. It ignores persecuted Muslims in Myanmar, persecuted persons in Sri Lanka, expressly excludes other religions and regions. Exit equality under Article 14 ?
1955 The Citizenship Act became law. In the coming decades, “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” became operational. 1985, saw the Assam Accord. Several times during the past four decades, the Citizenship Act was amended, never on the basis of religion. In 2007, the UN Resolution on “Elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief” became operational. In 2015, the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, were changed exempting Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh and Pakistan, from certain provisions of the Passport Act 1920. The same was done regarding the Foreigners Act 1946, changing terms of stay in India for exempted categories (all non-Muslims).
The Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, and then was referred to Joint Parliamentary Committee whose report was also apparently sidelined. In June the Bill lapsed but was reintroduced and passed in 2019. Controversial Bills have traditionally been pondered over by Presidents, but this bill after it was passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, received Presidential assent in a matter of hours.
The protests erupting all over the country are not seen on mainstream media reports, leaving one wondering why? The masses affected and those unaffected but concerned at the emasculation of and insidious influences on institutions of governance, can be and remain aghast, but there are important lessons to be learnt from what happened and how it happened.
The most critical lesson is to understand when you vote, what you are voting for. To understand what is stated is just that, stated. What is intended but never stated requires the capacity to read between lines, hear the unarticulated, understand the silences and the curious turns of phrase, and use those to project oneself into the future.
It’s not a Muslim issue. It’s an India issue. Those who are now angrily expressing anguish at the destruction of Constitutional ideals ought to have thought of this when electing their representatives, who in turn play pivotal roles in blocking judicial appointments and clearing judicial appointments, knowing well that one day what they do or omit to do will reach the portals of the temples of justice.
UN covenants are great, but a) only State Parties can approach the ICJ or the UN, and if they do, what will the UN do, in what time, till when how much damage is likely? Recall Rohingyas? And b) Governments cannot be compelled to enact legislation consistent with UN covenants. Directive Principles too are non-justiciable, you see.
So, citizen, you are on your own. There will be elections tomorrow too, and citizens must learn from mistakes, not repeat them. If they do not learn from recent history, they just might remain stuck in a time warp, cursed to endlessly play out the same cyclical tortuous road.