Real Purpose of CAA

Red Alerts for Muslims?

Bibekananda Ray

Is the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or the CAA, which continues to singe many parts of India and stoke numerous rallies and debates since it came into being on 15th December '19 is actually a dejure seal or de facto? While granting easy citizenship to immigrant 'religiously persecuted' Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Persians, Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Muslim immigrants from these, or other countries have been ignored. The opposition parties and apolitical intelligentsia dubbed it 'unconstitutional', as it infringes "equality before law" (Article 14) and makes religion a criterion of citizenship, not admitted in the Constitution and in a secular democracy. While presenting the bill in two Houses, the Home Minister, Amit Shah gave no cogent answer to these charges, nor did the President seek any before signing the controversial bill. It was passed in one day in the Lok Sabha without sufficient notice to members (eight TMC MPs could not arrive before vote) after a short debate; a day later, it was also passed in one day in the Rajya Sabha, where the lack of simple majority of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies was made up by making ally, Shiv Sena abstain, although it had earlier opposed the bill. After President's instant signature, it was gazetted forthwith, lest taking advantage of delay, somebody puts a spoke in it. These days, National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-II is making moves in haste with its majority; Maharashtra Governors swore in a minority government at dawn hastily, that resigned after only 80 hours.

Tumult over the law that began in Assam and Tripura spread to West Bengal and then to many other States, very virulently even in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, taking toll of at least 16 Chief Ministers of States, ruled by BJP allies like Bihar, are also protesting and refusing to allow the CAA and the NRC. Mr Shah remains unfazed and instead of dousing the fire, adds fuel to it by arrogantly refusing to withdraw, tweak, or suspend the operation of, the Act. He went a notch up, saying that the Aadhar and voter cards are no proof of citizenship; but merely proofs of identity. Articles 5 to 10, devoted to citizenship in the Constitution do not mention any proof either which citizens would like to possess and produce in need. Over the years, ration cards, the EPIC (voter's card), Aadhar card, passport, PAN card and even driving license have been deemed as valid for identity purposes by government agencies and the Election Commission. A few days back, Allahabad High Court ruled in a case that ration, EPIC and Aadhar cards were proofs of nationality; obviously, there is a confusion. On Aadhar card is written "right of common people" in regional language; right to what? Do 'uncommon people' not need them? If these are no proof, no Indian has any exclusive document, because none has been issued.

Under the CAA, six minority races of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had fled these countries in the wake of 'religious persecution' up to 31st December 2014 are eligible to become Indian citizens. How was the cut-off date chosen? Will members of these communities, who crossed into India after this date and who may do so in future, be refused citizenship? Why are Muslim immigrants into India from non-Muslim and other countries excluded? Some 43 countries have Muslim-majority (above 50%) population. Will the religiously persecuted Hindus or other five races in these be given Indian citizenship, if they cross into India? The Act does not give the number of each of these six minorities who had infiltrated since Independence. While hearing a PIL on 17th December '19, the Supreme Court observed that Hindu immigrants cannot be deemed minority, because Hinduism is a pan-Indian faith. Bahai Muslims fled persecution in Iran; Tamil Hindus of Jaffna (Sri Lanka) came in hordes to India. The Muslim Ahmadiyya sect has been religiously persecuted and discriminated against by Pakistan since it emerged in 1889 from the  Sunni  tradition; its adherents believe in all the  five pillars  and  articles of faith required of Muslims. Hundreds of them were killed in the 1953 Lahore and the 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya riots. The May 2010 attacks on Ahmadi mosques, known as the  Lahore Massacre, resulted in the murder of 84 Ahmadis by suicide attack. The 1974 riots resulted in the largest number of killings of Ahmadis but the immigrant Ahmadiyya in India but none of these persecuted Muslims are covered by the CAA.

The government does not seem to have carried out, certainly not published, any credible in-depth research in the issue- the number of minority-wise fugitives, their habitats, means of livelihood and political activities etc. Hindu exodus from two wings of Pakistan was 14% of the total population in 1951 but in 1998 came down to only 1.6%. From Bangladesh, however, Hindu exodus has been more than in the western wing, even after the Partition. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan ((1996 to 2001) persecuted Hindus but in the present regime, it is insignificant. Muslims accounted for 3.54 crore in 1951; sixty years later in 2011, they were 17.22 crore. At the present rate of growth their number in 2050 will be 18.4% of India's total population. Many Hindus believe, echoing BJP propaganda, that they will someday overtake the Hindus numerically because of four marriages and fertility of Muslim women; it is a figment of imagination, fed by BJP xenophobia.

If not 'unnecessary', it should have been a low priority agenda in Modi-II government in view of more urgent tasks, waiting to be attended to- the record number of jobless and arresting the slide of the economy and of the spiral of prices of virtually every commodity. The CAA was 'unnecessary' too in de facto milieu. Migrating at various times after 1947, these six 'religious minority' and other races must have settled in refugee colonies and convenient places, bought or acquired land, apartments and other assets, issued ration, voter and probably Aadhar cards, even in BJP regimes. They must have voted in several local, State and national polls; they are the vote bank of ruling parties of all hues, just like other bonafide Indians. There have been seven censuses from 1951 to 2011, which might have enlisted at least some, if not all, of the excluded in Assam. The 2021 Census has been notified on 24th December; it can enlist those who are targeted by the NRC and the CAA. Where is the need for conferring hassle-free citizenship on them, because they are, by and large, de facto citizens? A provision exists of granting citizenship to immigrants under the Foreigners Act, 1946 but it is complex and time-taking and requires too many documents; the CAA is a more expeditious law only. Therefore, a suspicion lurks that by not mentioning them, the CAA is actually a marginalisation of Muslims, a red alert to them that they are not welcome in India which the BJP and the RSS seek to transform into a Hindu Rashtra, as envisaged by Savarkar and Golwalkar.

India's population is counted and its growth recorded by various offices; their working at cross-purposes is not ruled out. Ten-yearly census is conducted by the Registrar General of India; The National Population Registration (NPR) is a database, containing a list of all usual residents of the country, done through house-to-house enumeration, the "house-listing" phase of the census, due in 2021, but West Bengal, Kerala and Rajasthan have postponed it. The National Sample Survey (NSS) and the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) also make periodical surveys to provide various data on specific issues. There is also a National Commission on Population, an apex body. To these, two new population enumerations have been added- the CAA and the NRC; the latter has been completed in Assam at the behest of the Supreme Court but the first has stirred a hornet's nest before implementation.

In close scrutiny, it would appear that these two moves are contradictory. The CAA seeks to confer citizenship on the six minority races who fled 'religious persecution' in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and came to India up to 2014. As the government is very lenient about documents (for the illiterate, only the date of birth will do), other races faking as belonging to these will take advantage of this bonanza. The final NRC in Assam has excluded over 19 lakh immigrants from Bangladesh; if they get no redress in foreigners' tribunals, they will take resort to this backdoor, as over 80% of them are Hindus. The same government that excluded illegal immigrants under the NRC is keen to make them citizens under a new Act; is it not contradictory? Curiously, while Home Minister, Mr Shah reiterates his resolve to carry out the NRC in all States and UTs, Mr Modi clarified, it was not an NDA move but was mandated by the Supreme Court. It has not even been discussed in the cabinet, he added. In a cabinet meeting on 24th December '19 a decision seems to have been taken to carry it out in rest of India. A BJP minister in Assam is demanding a repeat exercise.

The Hindu population in Pakistan has not diminished after the spurt from 1947 to 1951 following the Partition; fewer of them are now religiously persecuted. In Bangladesh, the Hindus are now one-tenth of total population; spurts came twice- from 1946 to 1951 and in 1971 before it seceded from Pakistan. Hindus were indeed persecuted in Taliban regime in Afghanistan and made to wear 'yellow badges' but there are hardly any, these days.

Already, marginalisation of Muslims in the national fabric has begun. Rights and privileges that they inherited and enjoyed under conditions of accession to India, agreed between the GOI and Maharaja Hari Singh of J & K in 1948 have been axed by scrapping Articles 370 and 35; it was a betrayal of promise by the GOI. Normalcy has not returned to the bifurcated territory even after four months, rendering the poor people of the valley still poorer; the UT and Central governments have not announced any significant development for the bifurcated territory. While the NDA-I and NDA-II governments launched so many welfare schemes for Hindus and other races, very little has been done exclusively for Muslims. Mr Shah boasts of scrapping Teen Talaq; the fact is, only the inhuman Sunni practice of husbands divorcing wives (not vice versa) by uttering talaq thrice in succession has been abolished, not the talaq, or the Muslim divorce system. A miscarriage of justice has occurred in Ayodhya by the apex court too. After marathon hearing of both sides, it came to the conclusion that no structure was demolished to build the Babri mosque, nor is it certain that a Hindu religious structure lies beneath it. Thus, the RSS view of the site being the birth place of Rama (if he was a historical incarnation) had no realistic basis; it is only to honour the RSS myths and sentiments that the apex court gave the disputed site to them and urged the government to give Muslims five acres of land in the holy city to rebuild a mosque. It held that the demolition of the mosque by RSS and BJP Kar Sevaks was illegal but it did not urge the Lucknow bench to wrap up the case and punish the guilty. Was it fair to Muslims? While presenting the CAB in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah referred to Nehru-Liaqat Ali Khan pact of 8th April 1950 and observed that Nehru had asked Islamabad to protect six minority races in Pakistan and promised that if it did not, India would accept them and give citizenship. No such reference is seen in the pact, as preserved in National Archives. The pact did not 'fail', pace Mr Shah.

As Malaysia's Prime Minister says, the CAA was 'unnecessary' and will have bearing on the Muslim population in neighbouring Muslim countries. Ms Banerjee who has been consistently opposing the NRC and later CAB is demanding their withdrawal, as they are 'unconstitutional' and smack of British "Divide and Rule". Mr Shah is adamant and middle-rung leaders like JP Nadda, Kailash Vijaybargiya and Nitin Gadkari and Dilip Ghosh, like Tweedledee, express BJP's resolve to carry out these across India, as they figure in the party's 2019 poll manifesto (Sankalpa Patra). In 2014 manifesto, the party promised to create two crore jobs, every year and credit 15 lakh rupees in very family's account out of retrieved black money. Did it keep these promises? Ms. Banerjee demanded referring the issue to the UN for a referendum (revised to 'opinion poll'), if the SC did not solve it. UN Referendums have been held in East Timor, Sudan (2011) and Egypt, following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. The UN or any other concerned country or individual can call for it; there is nothing wrong in Ms. Banerjee demanding one. Why the CAA and the NRC were taken in the Sankalpa Patra is a mystery. Could it be another hidden aim to have the official number of Hindus inflated to pave the way for Hindu Rashtra. In Assam, over 80% of the excluded in NRC will be made citizens now under the Act. Had they been Muslims, they would have been in the limbo. If NRC is finally carried out in West Bengal and other N-E states, the official population count of Hindus will rise manifold.

 The truth is, faith in revivalist Hinduism of Savarkar and Golwalkar and hatred of Muslims led to the BJP's birth and growth in these 22 years; in scrapping Article 370, the Supreme Court's partial verdict on Ayodhya dispute, the NRC in Assam and enactment of the CAA are all hidden moves to exclude Muslims from the national identity; it is a pity that a large number of India's Hindus hate Muslims and continue to support BJP's rule in the Centre and some States. Gone are the pluralism and tolerance, pursued by three Nehru and other regimes, even of A B Vajpayee's (1999-2004). Alas, an unprecedented meanness has descended on the ruling party in the Centre and 16 States; this is manifest in the chorus of BJP leaders and the infantry, who sound too brain-washed and one sided (like the fabled 'one-eyed deer') to be credible. Without making supreme sacrifice like Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, showing exemplary dedication and honesty of Ajoy Mukherjee, Prafulla Sen and Mamata Banerjee, dark horses mouth lies and half-truths, day in and day out, aspiring to be elevated to corridors of power. While so many political leaders and supporters laid down their lives and sacrificed their careers in India's freedom struggle, the RSS followers kept away and even Savarkar denounced Quit India movement. Waves of refugees came to Punjab and West Bengal from 1946 to 1951; Chief Ministers of these two truncated States- Dr B C Roy and Meher Chand Khanna-did not obstruct them but resettled them in refugee colonies and makeshift habitats in their and other States without discrimination, as Mr Modi and Mr Shah are doing now. History will someday expose them.

It is a pity that in India, when so many people are highly educated and vocal and sincerely want good of the country, politics is dominated by half-educated and uneducated hordes who mouth lies, half-truths and bigotries and emphasise the success of the party's moves by brute majority in rallies, or in Parliament. They are unfazed by electoral reverses in five States in the second innings and continued with the party's resolves. The opposition is gaining strength and if neither is reined, it may lapse in a civil war.

In four millennia, India has survived many cunning rulers and dictators without breaking, except once when Pakistan was created in the aftermath of 'two-nation' theory of M A Jinnah and the British policy of 'Divide & Rule'. Otherwise, she has been Rabindranath's hallowed vision of a pilgrimage, where all faiths, beliefs, customs, rites and rituals merged into a seamless fabric' Pluralism is India's soul in every sphere. The BJP's and the RSS's vision of a Hindu Rashtra, one language, one tax etc. is a mockery of this diversity and pluralism; mother India will survive it too and return to her traditional groove of a secular and democratic State for which it has been venerated all over the world.

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Vol. 52, No. 28, Jan 12 - 18, 2020