The Citizenship Debate

Intellectuals Speak Out

Radhakanta Barik

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has got attacks from India's lazy intelligentsia including lawyers, journalists and academia. For the first time they are active on their Internet and produced something special in giving a reply to the attacks of the Hindutva. Nobel Laurent like, Ramakrishnan and Abhijit Banerjee and hundreds of leading intellectuals have come out in opposition to the CAB.

On Amendment to Indian Citizenship Act there has been a high quality debates on the floor of the both the houses. But it is interesting to note here that the leaders of Opposition are raising critical points regarding the bill. There are some epistemological points of view regarding the citizenship as it is derived from the preamble of Indian Constitution where diverse social groups came into a contract with the Indian state regarding their rights. This is a contractual state and cannot be reduced to a theocratic state by the present regime. Such a good debate has not influenced the ruling party leaders as they lack that intellectual depth. Morally and intellectually the Opposition parties have virtually won the battle on intellectual plane. If intellectuals show their boldness the ruling party may lose their moral support which is a critical input in political democracy.

The Modi-Shah Regime has learnt a lesson that by showing the evidences they can torture masses. They have learnt a lesson from Chanakya that by troubling only a ruler creates fear in the minds of people. After implementing the NRC, they succeeded to keep about twenty lakhs of people as stateless people as they could not prove their citizenship as they lack their records.

Manufacturing industry of Delhi caught fire and killed workers belonging to minorities. The midnight fire burnt the constitutional pyramid of India standing on Citizenship Act of 1955 which does not discriminate anybody on religious ground. Here the Muslims have debarred under the present amendment to the Act of 1955. Industry provides supporting pillar to constitutional democracy as brings working class who support the political democracy. Modi government could not provide safety from fire hazard which killed forty-five people. Modi government is lukewarm to industrial growth which is going to affect constitutional democracy. An agrarian society cannot sustain constitutional democracy. This happened in the case of Pakistan where industrial economy could not grow which resulted in Islamic State.

Indian National Congress during the national movement took up the rights of each section of a society. They showed their commitment to rights of each section including working class and minorities. This is a mile stone in history of national movement. The RSS and Hindu Mahasabha later known as the BJP do not have history. They do not have idea of struggles and they live in ignorance. They used to support the British Imperialism to achieve their end of the Hindurashtra but they are desperate to achieve this which is impossible. They want to introduce the most divisive agenda of Amendment to Citizenship Act for dividing people of India. They have already failed on economic front as economic growth has come down and down. The unemployment is the highest in the last forty-five years. People are coming to the street for demanding their rights.

The BJP is in a desperate mood and they could not control the economic recession which will remove the chair from them.

Citizenship helps in construction of political community which is partly a moral and ethical issue as each citizen feels towards their public institutions based on a degree of neutrality and impartiality. Justice can be availed with a certain degree of certainty. This gives a moral strength to a community to confront the hostile countries or foreign aggression. It is an imagined community where there is an element of spontaneity in an individual towards its own imagined community. They share certain responsibilities towards each other.

This gives a chance to nominate their political representatives with a certain degree of acceptance by all. That any political group or party forms the government meant for whole territory without any discrimination to social group or religious group. This brings the question of difference between state and government. Government has a colour but state does not have which is supposed to work for all. Government is formed on the basis of universal adult suffrage which is having the same value for each without any discrimination on the basis of gender, caste or religious community or ethnicity. This brings out the truth regarding the society. Diversity is the strength of a society rather than weakness as each social cultural group maintains an autonomy to manage its cultural and affairs without affecting public peace and tranquility.

Citizenship tried to break the obstacles created by family, community in terms of gender and caste hierarchy. It allows citizen to confront these issues without affecting its presence as a part of political community. On the contrary more one confronts the obstructions created by social structure more one involves in a political community. His or her intellectual involvement in political community gets further solidifies.

This brings the question of confrontation with the state and society at the same time. It creates an anguished feeling regarding his or her demands getting ignored. At the same time confrontation with structure of family, religious community or caste community goes on without inhibition. This two-way engagement with the society and polity goes on. It is a continuous activity without any break. These continuous political activities are possible because of the nature of political democracy and complexities of a society.

At such a moment of political history, differential citizenship has come as the present government has brought the Constitutional Amendment Bill (CAB) by restricting refugees on the basis of religion to be a citizen. This is an anathema to political community and their political imagination. This is trying to fracture political mirror which may look hazy and blurred. But it gives an issue for a political community to confront.

Here a political community negotiates with its own history that history of political struggles teaches them to select some methods to confront the political executive. Street politics will have a logic. That it will remain in nonviolent struggles. History of national movement provides clues to negotiate with the rapacious political executive. That peaceful nonviolent struggles will continue on the streets, university campus. National movement has provided tasted means to achieve the target.

The political community has a breadth and depth of political imagination to realise those by defeating the agenda of differential citizenship.


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Vol. 52, No. 41, April 12 - 18, 2020