Anti CAA protests : promoting ignorance and fear psychosis through non-existent NRC bogey

Shekhar Dutta


It perhaps requires complete intellectual abdication and willing suspension of disbelief to take serious cognizance of the plethora of protest programmes against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) across the country. In a first, the women and pristinely innocent children have been pushed forward to spearhead the movement against the Act termed as anti-minority while at least three state governments have passed resolutions against the Act, in total violation of constitutional provisions. The Entry 17 in the Union List of powers (7th schedule) in our constitution has conferred exclusive power on Centre in matters of "Citizenship, Naturalisation and Aliens", precluding any legislation on the issue by any constituent state of the union. This is based on Article 11 of the constitution which gives the power of legislation on citizenship to parliament, stating explicitly and emphatically, "Nothing... shall derogate from the power of parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship". Nevertheless, power crazy parties desperate to preserve and expand vote-banks on the basis of tokenism and blatant falsehood  continue to demonstrate a brazenness in violating constitutional provisions unparalleled in the past seven decades of the republic. India's grand old party whose dissolution Mahatma Gandhi had suggested in the immediate aftermath of partition seem to have concluded that opposition to BJP or governments run by it  is synonymous with illusory commitment to Mother India. The rest , specially the hypocritical Marxists and power obsessed regionals have fallen in place.                                                  
It is an axiom that India had been partitioned in 1947 on religious grounds with leaders of Muslim League , specially its towering and ego-obsessed leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah holding that Hindus and Muslims constituted two different nations, set apart by history , heritage , culture and religious beliefs, that could not co-exist peacefully in a single land mass. But the separatism and movement for Pakistan and the inevitable reaction that it had evoked lasted beyond partition . As feared well ahead of the parting of ways , there was a huge and violent exchange of population across the Radcliffe line. Indian constitution framers had therefore incorporated Article 6 , paving the way for conferment of Indian citizenship till July 19 1948 by natural process and making registration as refugees by an appointed authority mandatory thereafter. This continued until the Indira-Mujib pact was signed in 1974 which set March 25 1971 as the valid deadline for entry into India, leading to conferment of citizenship rights. But the illegal and surreptitious entries by religiously persecuted minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan continued and forged papers ensured granting of citizenship and permanent residency rights on them by unscrupulous officials and influential people in lieu of money. Yet a large number of people-all illegal entrants- persecuted in the two countries, continued to languish in states of like West Bengal, Punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan , Gujrat and even Delhi. The situation took a turn for the worse as political instability gripped Afghanisthan that had a sizable Hindu and Sikh population in the wake of Soviet invasion of that country in 1979 and the emergence of fundamentalist Taliban. 

An exodus had commenced from the early nineties and it was by no means a secular exodus. This combined migration to India created a stateless population deprived of all rights as there was no means of pushing them back to countries of their origin where the constitutionally declared theocratic structure makes no room for religious minorities-all horrendous forms of atrocities with impunity like forced conversion , displacement from land , looting properties and women , demolishing places of worship are rampant and recorded authentically. Even the Nehru-Liaquat pact signed in 1950 in Delhi committing both India and Pakistan to protecting respective minorities never took off and the plight of minorities, specially in Pakistan continued to worse . Late Pakistani dictator 'General' Ziaul Haq gave a major thrust to Pakistan's regression to stark medievalism of Islamisation  by his "Hudud" ordinance and by legitimizing 'Sharia' law , jeopardizing the very existence of minorities in honour and dignity. 

The government of India , true to the pre-election promise of ruling BJP, had therefore enacted an amendment of the citizenship act-1955 , paving the way for conferment of citizenship on religious minorities of the three countries with December 31 2014 as the deadline as part of a reasonable classification to keep it compliant with Article 14 of the constitution. Since India is not short of population, no other section of people belonging to majority communities in the three countries were included in the ambit of the amendment. After all. no country in the world can afford to  be a happy hunting ground for all and sundry elements of alien population keeping borders open on all sides.  But the procedure to obtain citizenship by normal legal process laid down  in the citizenship act-1955  is still open and applicable even to majorities and  minorities of the three countries alike  who entered after the stipulated date.
For the sake of records, during the past six years of Modi government, 2830 people from Pakistan, 912 from Afghanistan  and 172 from Bangladesh have been granted  Indian citizenship on merits and the process will continue. Even on December 16 an Indian origin woman Hasina Behn who had been married off to a Pakistani way back in 1999 and had returned to Gujrat upon the death of her husband was conferred Indian citizenship back.  Conferment of citizenship on Indians settled abroad or even complete foreigners had happened earlier also as illustrated by granting of  citizenship on many Tibetans in late fifties, Indian Ugandans in 1976 , Srilankan Tamils and others in bulk or on individual case merits. The CAA takes away citizenship from absolutely no Indian, rather it confers citizenship on persecuted people umbilically bonded with India and leading a subhuman existence in this country. How it has become anti-secular is best left to the  fevered dream of professional secular-fundamentalists. A study of the amendment notified by the union ministry of law and justice on December 12 last year is therefore eminently desirable before putting the country on boil.  

What makes the opposition stand on CAA absolutely untenable and hypocritical is recorded history : vast peninsular India had been partitioned on religious ground as the culmination of a process of very sharp and explosive faith-based polarization. The leaders of independent India who had acquiesced in the parting of ways had been conscious of the consequences including the disaster that would visit the minorities in Pakistan. Keeping in view the stark possibility Mahatma Gandhi in a speech on July 7 1947   had assured the Hindus and Sikhs left behind in Pakistan of full rights of citizenship, jobs and resettlement in India . Pandit Nehru had followed suit in his independence day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15 in that fateful year. Besides, stalwarts of freedom movement like Sardar Ballav Bhai Patel , Babu Rajendra Prasad and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had also expressed fears over the fate of Non-Muslim minorities left behind in Pakistan and had assured them of full protection and rights in case they chose to migrate. To top it all , the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in a resolution passed on November 25 1947 had given assurance of shelter and full protection of rights to Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan who might prefer to migrate to India. It was truly a national commitment of post-partition India. 

But the problem continued to fester and worsen in Pakistan and post-'Bangabandhu' Bangladesh, making former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh raise the issue in Rajya Sabha on December 18 2003 and urge upon the then union home minister L.K.Advani to provide succour to persecuted minorities of Bangladesh. West Bengal’s ebullient and mercurial chief minister Mamata Banerjee had called for wholesale expulsion of Bangladeshi infiltrators and granting of citizenship rights to minorities from Bangladesh  in Loksabha in December 2005, going to the extent of tearing off papers. The CPI (M) stalwart Prakash Karat had done the same in 2012 on the basis of a resolution passed by the party Congress . The then Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot had written to then union home minister P.Chidambaram, pointing out  how Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan had been passing days in extreme penury and hapless condition in bordering areas of his state, calling for conferment of citizenship rights for them. As many as 13 thousand Hindu and Sikh refugees who had overstayed their visa out of compulsion had been conferred citizenship by Chidambaram's order.
In this backdrop,what amazes any sensible observer is the extent of concocted outrage of the opposition over the amended citizenship act which confers citizenship rights in bulk on persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Talibanised Afghanistan. The bogey of secularism is being raised but the idea of secularism as state policy is meant only for Indians within the country  cutting across faith and there is nothing in the CAA that prevents conferment of citizenship on Muslims , Jews or people belonging to any other faith barring those referred to in the Act. But for them, the procedure laid down in the citizenship act is to be followed in letter and spirit and there is nothing to preempt or preclude granting of citizenship on them. A serious trust deficit that seems to be propelling the anti-CAA protest exacerbated by ignorance must be neutralized by the government and ruling party to convince common people belonging to minorities in stead of resorting to bluster and rhetoric on the wisdom or otherwise of the amendment legislation. A crying need of the hour is also clarification of the fact that NRC is an altogether different concept meant for the whole of India and not a particular section of people.     

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