Burying Democratic Secular Constitution

Shamsul Islam

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) that promises to open the door for Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who got into India (on or before December 31, 2014) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, facing religious persecution, was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 9, 2019. This bill transgressing the fundamental soul of the democratic-secular polity of the country was passed in less than 8 hours due to RSS/BJP rulers enjoying brute majority in Lok Sabha. Sadly, it happened on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the 10th December. It replaced the Citizenship Act, 1955 which made no such discrimination. It was passed by Rajya Sabha on December 12.It was with the same hurricane speed that President of India gave her assent to make it into a law the same day.

However, a law which took birth and became a reality within 4 days (December 9 to 12) as if the Heavens would fall if this law did not exist was kept in the cold storage for 4 years and 9 months without being notified. It was enforced on March 11, 2024 when 2024 parliamentary elections are few weeks away. The plight of the persecuted non-Muslim minorities in India’s neighbourhood was abandoned to ensure that it was resurrected only when PM Modi needed this polarising law to his advantage.

It is not difficult to understand that it is the first step in the direction of bringing in a more monstrous law for scrutinizing citizenship of all existing Indian citizens. The NRC exercise is going to play havoc with crores of Indians specially marginalised and Muslims.

Shah while piloting the Bill in Lok Sabha had declared that it was in accordance with the Indian Constitution as "the Constitution is our religion." PM who abstained from the House due to election engagement in Jharkhand reposed full faith in Amit Shah by declaring that “This bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values.

These were shameless lies. This Act, first of its kind in independent India, sanctions blatant violation of the secular Constitution of India. Secularism has been declared as one of the 'basic’ structures by the Supreme Court of India. The Hindutva rulers claim that it was an amendment to the existing citizenship law, Citizenship Act of 1955. However, it is in total disregard of the 1955 Act under which Indian citizenship could be acquired by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation or incorporation of territory. Thus the CAA violates the secular character of the Indian Constitution which was declared to be one of the four inviolable pillars of the polity.
It is part of global anti-Muslim polarising agenda of RSS

Amit Shah while presenting this bill declared that it was not against minorities. According to him, "under PM NarendraModi no minority needs to be afraid”.

He seemed to be a large hearted home minister who would welcome all "Those who come here due to persecution, to save their religion and honour of the women of their family..." [Ibid] The benevolent Amit Shah argued “If minorities are getting persecuted in neighbouring countries, we cannot be mute spectators. We have to ensure their safety and dignity”.

However, this claim is absolutely hollow like any other claim of his when one goes through the Act. Persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are welcome but persecuted Muslims like Shias, Ahmedyas and Sufis not eligible for this offer. According to RSS/BJP rulers persecuted Muslims were not considered because they did not constitute a minority but were all Muslims. Even illiterates know that in the three countries these above mentioned sects have been declared as non-Muslims.

Amit Shah highly worried about religious persecution in three Muslim countries is not bothered about the persecution of Muslim rationalist, liberal and atheist writers, poets, bloggers and activists who in hundreds have been killed by religious vigilante groups in these countries. For long time India has been denouncing ethnic cleansing of Baloch nationalists. Thousands of them have been killed by the Pakistani armed forces and hundreds remain missing. Since they are Muslims they will not be welcome despite their continuous ethnic cleansing by the Pakistan Army!

And what about persecuted Uyghur Muslim minority in China? According to a UN committee more than one million Uyghur Muslims and other Muslim groups had been detained in concentration camps in the western Xinjiang region, where they were said to be undergoing "re-education" programmes. Recently, US Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country.

Amit Shah's argument for not allowing persecuted Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is that they are not minorities in their respective countries. But persecuted Uyghur Muslims are a religious minority in China. Denial to take refuge to them under the CAA 2019 only shows hatred for Muslims and kowtowing to the Chinese rulers.

Tragedy is soon to unfold for Afghans who in hundreds, many of them women, migrated to India due to excesses of Talibans. Since CAA has been notified all these Afghan refugees are going to be forced back into a theocratic Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban.

Farcical love for persecuted Christians
The love for Christians in the neighbouring countries is more puzzling as after Muslims, this community has faced the maximum violence at the hands of RSS goons in India. Modi started his first term as PM of India on May 26, 2014. One of the first decisions he made was about celebrating December 25, (X-MAS) as 'good-governance day' every year. It continues till date. What fate awaited Christians in India was made clear by one of the most decorated police officers of India, Julio Ribeiro, on completion of almost nine months of Modi's government, in the following words: "Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.

“Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of NarendraModi came to power last May? ‘Gharwapsi’, the declaration of Christmas as ‘Good Governance Day’, the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people." Such attacks on Christians and their religious-educational institutions have since taken a pan-Indian diabolic character.

The most prominent ideologue of RSS declared Indian Christians as 'Internal threat number 2' after Muslims who were declared as 'Internal threat number 1'.[MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, SahityaSindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 193.] How much Christians are loved by Amit Shah was made clear when Indian Parliament passed the104th Constitutional Act in 2019 itself. It did away with the nomination of Anglo-Indian members to the LokSabha and state legislatures from January 25, 2020. Nomination to Anglo-Indians was provisioned in the Constitution in order to give representation to a section of Christians who were incapable of getting elected any member of their community due to small number. In fact, despite this provision in force in the 17th LokSabha the Modi government did not nominate any member from the Anglo-Indian community to the House. The regime which is bothered about the persecution of Christians across the borders is working over-time to deprive them of all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Love for Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists who are decreed as Hindus in India by RSS
RSS-BJP rulers love for Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is puzzling. BJP rulers as members of RSS do not accord the status of independent religion to the above mentioned religions. The most prominent ideologue of RSS, Guru Golwalkar declared that Hindus should not be divided into Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, "the Buddhists, the Jain, the Sikh are all included in that one comprehensive ‘word' Hindu'". [MS Golwalkar, The Spotlights, SahityaSindhu, Bangalore, 1974, p. 171.]

Mysterious cut-off date
The cut-off date for seeking refuge in India by the persecuted communities has been fixed on or before December 31, 2014. It means that there has been no persecution of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis in the three countries after December 31, 2014. It only shows complete disregard of the present reality in India's neighbourhood. The cut-off date was tailor made to assuage the mounting anger of more than fifteen lakh Hindus who have been declared foreigners in Assam. But it has opened the old wounds in Assam where organisations fighting for the Assamese identity have risen in revolt against CAA.

Persecuted Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka left in the lurch
CAA is silent on Sri Lanka where large scale massacre of Hindu Tamilians took place. The fascist Buddhist organisations in Sri Lanka have been demanding Sri Lanka for Sinhalese Buddhists only. Amit Shah and his Hindutva government have brazenly betrayed the persecuted Hindu Tamilians of Sri Lanka who were forced to migrate to India during the civil war or still facing persecution there. More than 150000 (one and half lakh) are languishing in miserable camps with no rights. Shockingly, CAA sacrifices safety of even Hindus in the neighbourhood.

Persecuted minorities and ethnic groups in Myanmar left to die
Indian home ministry under Amit Shah has ordered to erect a fence on 1643 kilometre long India-Myanmar borders. It is being done to stop the religious minorities and ethnic groups like the Rohingya people, Kachins (The Baptists) and the Arakan Army which are facing brutal persecution of the Military rulers. Since they took refuge in India to save themselves from the killing gangs of the Myanmar Army now with this fence they would be at the mercy of Myanmar rulers.

Amit Shah's hypocrisy on 'one nation, one legislation'
RSS/BJP rulers have been pro-active on the demand that India is one nation and should have one law on each issue.

Interestingly, prior to the CAA India had one single citizenship law but with the enforcement of CAA India would have multiple citizenship laws. The CAA exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit which may also be made an exception. Thus citizenship will be governed by plethora of laws bidding good-bye to the goal of 'one nation, one legislation'.

CAA 2019 was scripted by the Guru of Hate Golwalkar in 1939
CAA 2019 is the resurrection of what the most important ideologue of RSS, Golwalkar decreed in his 1939 book We or Our Nationhood Defined about the character of Indian nation. According to him it was, it is and will remain an exclusive Hindu nation. The reality is that it is not only against the minorities but against democratic-secular Constitution of India. The RSS has been allergic to the idea of an all-inclusive India since its birth in 1925.

Golwalkar declared that in, "Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation...Consequently only those movements are truly 'National' as aim at rebuilding, re-vitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Notion". [MS Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publication, Nagpur, 1939, p. 43]

He went to the extent of declaring that all those who did not believe in establishing the Hindu nation "are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots". [MS Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publication, Nagpur, 1939, p. 44.]

It is important to note that even when CAA was not there India led by PM Nehru had allowed refuge to likes of the Dalai Lama with his retinue (April 1959). At the end of 1970s thousands of East Pakistanis who were persecuted by Islamists and Pakistan army were provided shelter in India. CAA is a ploy of RSS/BJP rulers led by diehard Hindu nationalists like Modi and Amit Shah to convert democratic-secular India into a Hindutva theocracy. It was facilitated by a capitulated Parliament. Indian judiciary, specially the Supreme Court could have averted this tragedy by timely intervention. But despite more than 200 petitions challenging the constitutionality of the CAA pending before the highest court of justice since 2020 it continues to dither from hearing the petitions. Now the only hope is that people of India would resist this undoing of democratic-secular India.

March 12, 2024

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Vol 56, No. 40, Mar 31 - Apr 6, 2024