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What’s wrong with Citizenship Amendment Act?

What’s wrong with Citizenship Amendment Act?

New Delhi: After the Citizenship Amendment Bill became a law, newspapers and news portals are flooded with editorials, opinions and columns voicing concerns over its implementation in a secular country like India.

In her column published in Hindustan Times, senior journalist Barkha Dutt explains how Citizenship Act, NRC will alter the idea of India. She says “About 1.9 million people found themselves excluded from the NRC in Assam, but these were not just Muslim migrants from Bangladesh — the suddenly stateless included lakhs of Hindus as well. What may now happen is something like this. The citizenship law will throw a protective shield over the disenfranchised non-Muslims; the Muslim migrants will then be left to appeal before the foreigners’ tribunals. The new law also offers legal immunity to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from jail, deportation and other criminal proceedings. In other words, the only people in internment centres will likely be Muslim migrants.”

Saying that the twin projects of the CAA and NRC will fundamentally change India and the nation we have always prided ourselves on being, Dutt states ‘weaponised by the NRC,’ CAA will become a merciless instrument of bigotry. She expresses fear that it will impact India’s 200 million Muslim citizens.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee in his article “India is losing the promise of inclusivity” published in Indian Express, writes, “The logic of Partition is enhanced, not cured, by blaming the tragic event to justify a new law of segregation. It is a contradictory and self-serving logic, seeking to restore communal divisions by accusing others of it.”

An article in The Hindu titled “In the name of a majority” written by Anupama Roy states “This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country. In addition, such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950, embodying the idea of a people who committed themselves — and those governing on their behalf — to a constitutional order.”

Anas Tanwir in the article “New Citizenship Act is illogical and poorly drafted” published in National Herald opines “CAA is unconstitutional, illogical, poorly drafted and does not make clear how non-Muslims will prove that they immigrated from the three mentioned nations due to persecution.” The article states “Further, CAA along with the exercise of pan-India NRC seeks to first create non-citizens out of existing citizens and then grant citizenship to non-Muslims. It damages the basic structure of the Constitution. It is a clear violation of Article 14 of the Constitution that provides for equal protection of law.”

“Creating stateless citizens is a violation of principles of customary international law. By doing this, India is fast losing the moral high ground that it had over neighbours as well as its ambition of becoming Vishwa Guru.” The article noted.

Krishna Sarma who hails from Assam and is managing partner at Corporate Law Group, writes in an article published in CNBCTV18 “The bill is despicable as it seeks to further the Hindutva utopia of a Hindu Rashtra. It seeks to further a colourable objective i.e., provide a fast-track citizenship based on religion on dodgy assertions of persecution of unquantified numbers of minorities in these three countries, and therefore is blatantly unconstitutional.”

Mihir S Sharma in an article published in Business Standard titled “India abandoning its founding principles with Citizenship Amendment Bill” says “The purpose of the Citizenship Amendment Bill is simple: when combined with the NRC, it can protect poor Hindus from the regulations that could render any poor Muslim a non-citizen at the stroke of an official’s pen. The purpose is to create, through law, a permanent threat to hang over every single Muslim head in India: Don’t stand up for yourself, or we will set you the impossible task of proving that you are, in fact, Indian.”

Expressing fears of serious long-term consequences of CAA and NRC, Samrat Choudhury in his article “North East: NRC, CAA open healing wounds” in National Herald writes, “What the Citizenship Amendment Act does at present is therefore largely symbolic. It takes to conclusion the logic of Partition, and establishes India as a mirror image of Pakistan. It also replaces fully the original Indian concept of citizenship, which was based on birth within the territory of India – regardless of ethnicity and origins – with the concept of citizenship based on descent.” He adds “The attempt to create different classes of citizens, via the combination of CAA and NRC, with the Muslims as second-class citizens, is one that is bound to have serious long-term consequences for India. The reopening of divisive religious politics is also inevitably going to be met by equally divisive ethnic politics. The clashes of linguistic and regional identities may accompany the clash of religious identities.” He warns “One Pandora’s Box was opened when the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened in 1985. That event had a decisive impact on Indian politics from then to now. What Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are doing with NRC and CAA is opening two Pandora’s Boxes. It is unlikely that they, or anyone, can forecast the future repercussions of these moves, whose effects may be felt for decades.”

Claiming that Citizenship Act is a step towards Hindu Rashtra, Nayakara Veeresha in Deccan Herald says, “At this critical juncture, it is necessary to look into the politics being played by the BJP to push the agenda of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by disenfranchising Muslims through NRC and consolidating Hindu votes through CAB.” He asserts, “The CAB is purely based on electoral calculation, which is part and parcel of the BJP’s Hindu Rashtra narrative. The CAB precisely enables the citizenship rights of those who are excluded under the NRC, except the Muslims. The NRC makes people stateless, the CAB provides statehood to all the non-Muslims among them.”

The author laments, “The BJP’s politics of identity and religion has effectively corroded the primacy of Parliament as seen from the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. Now, the CAB and NRC together disturb the basic structure of the Constitution, especially our secular identity. Importantly, it escalates the ethnic, identity and religious conflicts in the North-East states, as already evident.”

Predicting that the next step of the Modi government would be implementation of Uniform Civil Code, the author writes, “The government is playing with constitutional values and morality. With the passage of the CAB, the BJP has exposed the full face of its majoritarian agenda at the cost of secularism and minority rights, especially those of Muslims and the indigenous communities of the North-East. The next stop of the BJP on this journey is Uniform Civil Code.”

In the article “Scars of CAB protests will further burn bridges between northeast and rest of India” published in Indian Express writer Suhas Palshikar expresses fear that “While, at the moment, attention is focused on this protest because of its severity, another muted opposition, more about the signal given by the amendment, may begin to take shape among Muslims. Because, along with consolidating a Hindu vote bank, the changes unambiguously send a message to the Muslims about their status — that they will be tolerated, but just that. The danger, here, is apparent. Besides the spectre of a Hindu-Muslim divide, this could further ghettoise and communalise Muslim politics.”

Claiming that India’s image has gone “from hero to zero” Pankaj Mishra in his article “India’s Problems Were Always Bigger Than Narendra Modi” published in “Bloomberg” writes “This week, an exhaustively researched report in the New Yorker by Dexter Filkins provided spine-chilling evidence that India is ruled by cold-blooded ideological fanatics, who will use all means to achieve their aims. These can range from perversion of the media, judiciary and military to anti-Muslim pogroms, targeted assassinations of critics, and collective punishment of a minority.”

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