P Chidambaram, the former Finance Minister, in his press conference one day after his release from Tihar Jail, lambasted the BJP government for its utter failure on the economic front. He pointed out two reasons for the alarming economic slowdown: Arrogance and Incompetence of the Government. The introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Parliament on 9th December can be viewed as the symptom of these two dangerous diseases from which the BJP government under PM Modi suffers. The passing of the CAB by both the houses of parliament is a dark chapter in the history of India.
The BJP government under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi has been a failure on the economic front ever since it assumed power in May 2014. Most of its promises related to economic growth and job creation remained in the realm of dreams. The GDP growth in 2013-14 and 2014-14 was 6.6% and 7.2% respectively. After five and half years rule of the BJP, the GDP growth decelerated to 5% in the second quarter of 2019-20 and unemployment rose to 8.5%, the highest during the last 45 years. Many studies have shown that the disastrous demonetization and the unplanned GST implementation are the main contributors to the economic slowdown which India is facing today. Demonetization is an outstanding example of the arrogance and incompetence of the BJP government under the leadership of PM Modi. In order to divert people’s attention from bread and butter issues, the BJP government is implementing highly divisive and religiously emotive agenda one by one. How long will the BJP be able to hoodwink the people of India?
The BJP became more proud, arrogant and inhuman when it came to power a second time with enhanced majority in the Lok Sabha in May 2019. Abrogation of article 370 and article 35A and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir State into two Union Territories within 24 hours and keeping Kashmir under communication blockade for more than three months was a terrible expression of the newfound arrogance of the BJP. No sooner than the shock and the humiliation arising out of the Kashmir tsunami subsided, the CAB was brought to the parliament to flush out the “termites”.
CAB coupled with a nationwide National Register of Citizenship (NRC) as already declared by Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, could be a disaster worse than demonetization. In fact, it is two more steps closer to the realization of Hindu Rashtra, the vision of the Sangh Parivar. The bill aims to provide Indian citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. A person belonging to any of these faiths, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, for having faced religious persecution in those three countries, can apply for Indian citizenship. If the person can prove religious persecution, he or she will be granted citizenship by the government of India. The Muslims are deliberately excluded. Similarly, the bill does not extend to those persecuted in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, from where Rohingya Muslims and Tamils are staying in the country as refugees. Further, it fails to allow Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims, who also face persecution in their own countries, to apply for citizenship.
CAB and NRC are closely linked. The CAB will help to protect the non-Muslims who are excluded from the register and face the threat of deportation or internment. Tens of thousands of Bengali Hindu migrants who were not included in the NRC can still get citizenship to stay on in Assam.
There has been widespread opposition to the CAB. First of all, it violates the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution, equality and non-discrimination. Article 14 of the constitution provides for equality in general. Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, or of any of them. The Hindu newspaper, in its editorial under the title “Unequal, Unsecular” dated 10th December, has severely criticized the bill. “ The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB) , is brazenly discriminatory and it is only a matter of time before its constitutionality is subjected to severe judicial scrutiny. The government’s obstinacy in going ahead with it, despite opposition in Parliament, as well as from enlightened sections, is unfortunate. In both its intent and wording, the proposed amendment singles out a community for hostile treatment”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the government over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, saying it was an “attack on the Indian Constitution”. While opposing the bill in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma of the Congress said, “ In fact, I am convinced that this bill is an assault at the very foundation of the Cnstitution of India. It hurts the very soul of the Constitution of India. It goes against the very preamble of the constitution." In an interview to PTI, Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, had said “the passage of the Bill will mark the definitive victory of Mohammed Ali Jinnah's thinking over that of Mahatma Gandhi's, asserting that the exercise of granting citizenship on the basis of religion will reduce India to a "Hindutva version of Pakistan".
Reacting to the passage of the Bill in Rajya Sabha, Sonia Gandhi said, "Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India. The passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India's pluralism."
The AIMIM president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi, while opposing the bill in the Lok Sabha, tore a copy of the bill to express his anger and anguish. Justifying his act to tear the Bill, Owaisi said that he was following the footprints of Mahatma Gandhi, who opposed the certificate which was issued to Asia-origin people in South Africa. He accused the government of making the Muslims stateless through the CAB and the proposed nationwide NRC. “I oppose this Bill as it is against the Constitution and an insult to our freedom fighters," he said.
600 prominent individuals from India, including writers, artists, former judges and officials in an open letter on December 10, urged the government to withdraw the proposed law which promises citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from the neighbouring countries. According to them, “the CAB, along with a nationwide NRC (National Register of Citizens), will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage, fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic."
The North Eastern States witnessed widespread protest against the CAB on December 10. The people in the North East are afraid of an influx of outsiders. They fear that it will primarily benefit the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who have settled in "large numbers" across the region.
Every citizen who believes in the constitution of India has to continue to oppose CAB, even though it is passed by the parliament. The CAB and the proposed nationwide NRC are diametrically opposed to the constitution. They are going to cause social turmoil, besides the huge financial burden involved in conducting the excruciating process of NRC. Several former IAS officers and activists have urged Indians to begin a civil disobedience movement to protest the CAB and the proposed NRC. As per the media reports, activist and former IAS officer Harsh Mander said that if the bill is passed in Parliament, he would officially register as a Muslim. “I will then refuse to submit any documents to NRC,” he wrote on Twitter. “I will finally demand the same punishment as any undocumented Muslim – detention centre [and] withdrawn citizenship. Join this civil disobedience.”
Author Tony Joseph said he would refuse to submit “to this immoral act” by not submitting the requisite documents needed to prove his citizenship. “I will stand along with my brothers and sisters rather than be a mute spectator to their disenfranchisement,” he said.
The time has come for a second independent struggle if India is to survive as a pluralist democracy and to save the constitution that is the very foundation of a multi-religious and multi-cultural country. Because of its electoral victory, the BJP arrogantly believes that it has the backing of the people of India to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. For the BJP, the suffering of the people is not an issue, but its divisive, exclusive and sectarian ideology is the priority. A party whose ideology is rooted in hatred and revenge will continue to divide the people of India and create conflict among its own people. The violence that is already started in Assam and the North-Eastern states is the result of the divisive policy and ideology of the BJP.
The people of India have to put an end to the arrogance of the BJP and the race towards fascism by launching a non-violent movement, taking inspiration and strength from the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Let all enlightened Indian citizens take the following pledge, as taken by the activists.
“We, the people of India, do hereby pledge that we are committed to the values of the constitution of India and its commitment for a secular and democratic nation. We take pride in India’s diversity and unity. We pledge to treat all citizens equal irrespective of caste, religion, language and cultural beliefs and opposed to any move to dismantle the values of our freedom struggle. We believe that Citizen Amendment Bill is discriminatory and violates the constitutional values. We do not accept the bill and if becomes law we will boycott its execution. We pledge not to submit any documents if demanded to prove our citizenship. Long Live Constitution of India! Long live Unity of India!
(Published on 16th December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 51)