NRC Disputes

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a paradox

Sutputra Radheye

["Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (2016), the further amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955, seeks under the existing provisions of the Act, persons belonging to the minority communities (such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have either entered into India without valid travel documents or the validity of their documents have expired are regarded as illegal migrants and hence ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship. It is proposed to make them eligible for applying for Indian citizenship."]

Ever since the Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha, there has been mass protest all around the state of Assam, which leads to the question : why are people protesting against the government? As we look into the matter with a magnified view, we see certain sceptical coincidences with the recent facts and figures, that regrettably, let's down the developmental, and secular approach of the current central government.

The first problem is of a population blast. You can clearly spot, the word 'Secular' written on the preamble of the Constitution of India has been misunderstood while drafting this Bill, as it includes almost every religion or sect except the Muslims, and Christians to some extent. Now, let's not focus on the religious inclination of the government, and rather concentrate on the liabilities it will cost, or price that the states will have to pay for it. In states like Assam, where the percentage of Muslim Immigrants is subsequently higher, as confirmed by the Finance Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, when he said: "Without Citizenship Amendment Bill, Assam will become part of Pakistan", which is geographically impossible, so it can be noted as a comment on Assam being a Muslim dominated area, considering the Indian image of Pakistan being an Islamic State, the Muslim Immigrants will spread to the nearby states. The population will blast, and scatter into different states in search of shelter, food and work. Maybe, it was the reason they left their homes in Bangladesh for. It will be a step taken towards survival in their context. And, in India, it is not obscure to bribe someone, and be able to create a new identity; and to trace them, in a population of 1.25 Billion, it isn't that easy as it seems when we think about it. The failures, and obstacles NRC had to face in this context, and that too while working only in the state of Assam confirms the difficulty in doing so without committing a mistake.

Even if we assume that the government has been able to trace down every single Muslim Immigrant, then too what about the increase in the legal population of India? How will the government deal with the employment sector of such a colossal population? According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), India will see its unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019, the same which was seen in 2017 and 2016. In simple words, the number of jobless people in India this year will be 18.9 million, which is a bit more than 18.6 million in the previous year. If we talk about Assam which will be the nervous system for Hindu Bangladeshi migrants heading towards India, there are already more than 15 Lakhs educated jobless citizens as confirmed by Chandra Mohan Patowary, the Industry Minister of Assam.So, now the question that arises is how will the government tackle the increasing unemployment, and employ the new set of Indian citizens alongside the old ones? Also, how will India provide quality education to the Indian citizens when they have failed miserably in doing so with the old set of population? According to OXFAM India,"India is home of largest population of illiterate adults in world—287 million, amounting to 37% of the global total." Without any proper planning of generating employment, and providing education, is it morally and ethically right to take such a decision of inclusion?

Yet there arises another question, what if the Muslim Immigrants proselytise to Hindu sect of living, or any other of the included religions? Will they be eligible to apply for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (2016)? If the answer somehow is 'Yes', can you imagine the multiplied quantity of population India is willing to adopt? Even if India adopts all them, where they will build their houses? The country is suffering from a population density of 412 people per square kilometre, which ranks 31st in the entire world. (Report by World Population Review)

At last, the exclusion of Muslims from the bill seems like an oxymoron to the stands of the government who has been preaching the ideologies of Sardar Patel. In June, 1947, on being suggested to declare India as a Hindu state, and Hinduism as its religion, he rejected it by saying: "We must not forget that there are other minorities whose protection is our primary responsibility." In 1950, he announced, "Ours is a secular state and we cannot fashion our politics in the way Pakistan is doing it. Here every Muslim should feel that he is an Indian citizen and has equal right as an Indian." He further added, "If we cannot make a Muslim feel like this, we shall not be worthy of our heritage and our country." And, it is widely known how he banned an organisation from Indian Politics to keep the secular culture of it alive.

Thus, it is upto us, the responsible citizens of India, to think rationally, analyse the situation and take necessary constitutional remedies, for, it will be too late, too soon.

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Vol. 52, No. 2, Jul 14 - 20, 2019