Feb 08, 2023
Feb 08, 2023
The ongoing conundrum and unrest in various parts of the country opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 is undoubtedly an opposition parties’ staged stratagem and ploy so that an embarrassed and harassed federal government is forced to withdraw the legislation. The most unacceptable and unforgivable part of the unrest is the use of students in various universities and academic institutions through an archestred disinformation campaign on electronic and social media with the assistance of some anti-social elements indulging in rioting, arson and violence. People of the particular minoriy community are being deliberately incited to create lawlessness and ruccus on the roads; even children of 7-8 years have been used . Indian Muslims do not have locus on these protests because the new law does not impact their citizenship and other interests in any away. These protests by any political party, religious community or students are absolutely unjustified; even the Supreme Court of India has found any ground for staying the legislation.
The aforesaid amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 provides relief to the persecuted religious minorities in the three neighbouring countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to grant citizenship of India subject to certain conditions. The legislation is mean for the millions of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian migrants, who constitute persecuted minorities in these countries and are staying in India for decades after crossing the border on valid documents and some even illegally. It is more of a humanitarian cause because a systematic persecution of the minorities in these Islamic countries is an open secret and numerous instances can be quoted of the inhuman treatment meted out to these people and their faith in utter violation of international laws on human rights and freedom. While millions of Hindus and Sikhs have received inhuman treament in Pakistan for decades, even Christians and Parsis have not been spared; it's not long back when the Christian boy Sharoon Masih was lynched by his school mates just because he had drawn water from the same source and Asia Bibi, absolved by Supreme Court in 2018, was sentenced to death for blasphemy on false charges.
Salient Features of Citizen Amendment Act 2019
After the Presidential assent, the aforesaid Act of Parliament has been notified on 12 December 2019 with the following provision:
Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament
The problem of non-Muslim refugees in India is very old. Millions of persecuted families of Hindus, Sikhs and other communities from the neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have crossed borders on valid travel documents and many even illegally in the past and are living in refugee camps and shelters for decades in various parts of the country. They cannot live a respectable life being not entitled to employment and livelihood in any organized sector as they are not natural citizens of the country. Besides, they often face harassment from the law enforcing agencies and are also exploited by the touts and middlemen. Under the threat of deportation, these families say that they will commit suicide instead of again going to the abyss for perdition. The successive governments were besieged with this problem but none of them ever showed audacity to solve the problem.
In line with their pre-poll promise, when the National Democratic Alliance government (NDA) led by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament, it was opposed tooth and nail by the opposition parties, the chief antagonist being the Indian National Congress. Unlike some mature Western democracies, the opposition in India opposes almost every legislation proposed by the ruling party irrespective of its merit. When the Citizenship Amendment Bill was moved during the winter session, the opposition parties opposed it as being discriminatory on the grounds of Muslims not being included in the Bill. The Home Minister explained at length that the bill has limited scope of amending the Citizenship Act of 1955 to pave way for the religiously persecuted minority communities of the neighbouring Islamic countries and Muslims are not persecuted religiously in these countries. He explained that over 550 Muslims were granted Indian citizenship during the last five years and this Bill does not impose any restriction for Muslims to acquire Indian citizenship.
The debate on Bill took an ugly shape in the parliament itself when the leaders of the opposition parties blamed the ruling BJP for the bias and divisiveness by not including Muslims and one senior Congress member who also happens to be a famous lawyer even dragged the name of Veer Savarkar in his statement holding him responsible for the partition of India on communal lines during the debate on Citizens Amendment Bill. The malafide of statement is obvious from the fact that the seeds of the two nation theory were actually sown back in 1880s itself by Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khan in his crucial political speeches in Lucknow (1887) and Meerut (1888), respectively. He was apprehensive and critical of Indian National Congress leaders including few moderate Muslims who had joined it and categorically stated that the Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations (quams), justified the rule of British in Muslims’ interests and ruled out the very idea of two communities sitting together and sharing power as inconceivable in the event of British leaving the country.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill was, however, passed with an overwhelming majority in the lower house (Lok Sabha) of Parliament, where the ruling alliance is in majority, and with a comfortable majority in the upper house (Rajya Sabha), where the ruling dispensation lacks requisite number; a clear indication that the majority of law makers supported the legislation cutting across the party lines. The Bill became an Act after the presidential assent, the salient points of which are outlined in the earlier paragraphs. Here the role of the oldest national party (the Congress) was indeed very strange and paradoxical because the proposal of granting citizenship to the persecuted refugees from the foreign countries as not being considered for the first time. In the past too, persecuted refugees mostly Hindus from Uganda, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were granted Indian citizenship though constitutional amendment during the Congress regime. The former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on record to have made appeal in Rajya Sabha in 2003 for granting citizenship to the persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh; it’s, however, a different saga that, subsequently, he as Prime Minister from 2004 to 2014 and his Congress government did not deem it necessary to bring such legislaion.
Chaos and Conundrum against CAA 2019
Immediately after passing of the Citizen Amendment Bill, protests were reported from Assam and some other Northeastern hill states but peace was restored soon after an assurance call given by the Prime Minister. The Opposition parties, however, continued their rhetoric against the citizenship law outside Parliament too, particularly the leaders of Congress at national level, Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi, Trinmool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal and Samajwadi Pary in Uttar Pradesh, among others. The Congress organized “Bharat Bachao Rally” (Save India Rally) in Delhi on 14 December 2019 with their overseas branches resorting to similar action in UK and other countries; wherein under the garb of criticism for failure on economy, employment etc., the leadership attacked the government citing the Citizenship Act as a divisive agenda and gave a call for the sustained public protests till the withdrawal of legislation. Similar statements were made by the leaders AAP in Delhi and TMC in Kolkata. Chief Minister of West Bengal has even given a call for the United Nations’ intervention to carry out a referendum on the law passed by the Parliament.
Reportedly, the Imams and Moulvis from the Mosques in Karnataka have appealed Muslims to set right their documents and, reportedly, even a ‘Citizen Centre’ has been opened in Bengaluru to assist them. Simultaneously, a disinformation campaign was started countrywide among the Muslim population through the electronic and social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facefook and Twitter; reportedly, hundreds of twitter handles and fake social media accounts from the neighbouring Pakisan are also engaged in hate and disinformation campaign on the subject. Messages were circulated through social media, and posters and pamphlets anonymously pasted in religious places and elsewhere with misleading and seditious narratives that the citizenship of Muslims of the country will be taken away through the CAA and NRC, their property will be confiscated rendering them homeless / stateless and majority of them will be sent to "detention camps" by the BJP government. The obvious purpose of this campaign appears to create fear and insecurity in Muslims community thereby inciting them to resort to a large scale arson, violence and riots in a bid to force the government to withdraw legislation.
All this has already caused a considerable fear, insecurity and unrest among the Indian Muslims as if the new law was indeed deliberately created to discredit and devoid them of their possessions, homes and nationality. It is this fear and insecurity psychosis fueled through systematic disinformation campaign by the vested interests and anti-social elements, which has led to lawlessness, chaos and conundrums in many parts of country during the last few days. The Jamia Millia University in Delhi became a flash point where a few outsiders and anti-social elements mingled with the motivated students and created ruccus on roads and certain localities of the national capital, clashed with police and damaged public property through arson and sabotage. Similar but less intense protests were recorded in some other central universities too such as the ones at Aligarh, Jadhavpur and Banaras Universities by Muslim and left-leaning students.
The ongoing rumors, misinformation and false narratives have taken a heavy toll through protests, arson and violence in many states and key cities in just few days. The majority participants are misguided and misinformed Muslim youth and, of course, supported by self-proclaimed messiah of secularism and human rights activists including left and left-leaning academicians, liberals and celebrities shown up in places like Mumbai and Bengaluru. The latter category is mostly of the same people who had opposed Narendra Modi before his ascension as prime minister of the country in 2014, built the narratives of growing intolerance in country in 2014-15 and 2018-19, spoke for the human rights of condemned terrorists like Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths and supported urban naxals after Elgar Parishad event at Pune in 2018. Ironically, they called it a peaceful protest and condemned police action while the protesters are all along seen chasing and thrashing policemen, misbehaving with the media reporters, damaging and putting police posts, public and private property on fire and engaged in objectionable slogans against dignitaries and national leaders.
Footages released by some national news media channels and live coverage at Jama Masjid, Delhi protests on 19 December revealed that majority of the protesters, mostly Muslims, do not have any idea about the objective, implication or current status of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) or National Register of Citizens (NRC). While raising slogans and even abusive language against the prime minister and home minister, most of the protesters could not not even spell the CAA or NRC, refused to speak on the subject, accepted that they are forbidden to speak and told reporters to ask their "Maulana ji" (cleric) for any detail. They are not aware that the CAA does not impact them and NRC has not progressed beyond a concept so for outside the Northeastern states. From the spontaneous reaction and outburst of many protesters, it appears that most of them are under misconception of being deprived of their Indian citizenship due to CAA and NRC and, consequently, they might lose their right of franchise, be denied the benefits of government sponsored schemes and employment, their property and possessions might be confiscated, bank accounts frozen and confiscated, identity documents like Aadhar, Voter ID, PAN cards cancelled and they will be eventually sent to detention camps.
Posters and pamphlets were circulated with appeal to paste at mosques and photocopies circulated on the social media on 19 December 2019 with the aforesaid misinformation by unidentified people inciting Muslims to come out in large numbers after Friday Namaz on 20 December to protest against CAA and NRC with a resolve "Karo ya Maro" (Do or Die). Consequently, internet services were temporarily suspended in many cities to restrict circulation of rumours and misinformation by administration, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, key leaders of the main opposition Congress party accused the government for suppression the voice of people who according to them were peaceful protesters, to deprive people their right to use internet and one of them was even seen among the protesters at India Gate in Delhi proding if they were ready to stand in long queues with documents as it happened after demonetization. All this led to a large scale protests, arson and violence on roads on 20 December in several cities across the country, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, giving hard time to police to control mobsters and maintain law and order. At many places mobs resorted to heavy stone pelting on police, destruction of public property and use of fire arms leading to several deaths and dozens of injuries to protesters and policemen.
Disinformation Campaign Abroad
Agitation of students in the Jamia Millia University and subsequent protests in various parts have received wide coverage in the international media and press with the usual bias and lopsided reporting with anti-India anti-government rant. Most of such reports are far from truth and ground reality or objective analysis of the real situation. For illustration, one could take reports of Indian journalists Rana Ayyub and Barkha Dutt in “The Washington Post”: both the journalists are best known for their indiscriminate criticism and crusade against Prime Minister Modi and his government almost on each policy and programme for many years; Ayyub Rana even wrote a book on Gujarat riots of 2002 implicating Narendra Modi, who was given clean chit by the Supreme Court based on SIT investigation supervised by them as well as Nanvati-Mehta Commission. In her blog, Rana cites Prime Minister Modi’s tweets as “dog whistles” and his government’s actions as "majoritarian attacks" on the rights of Muslim citizens. Though she did not specify “majoritarian attacks” but it could be none other than the legislations on abolition of the practice of “triple talaq” of Muslim women, abrogation of the Article 370 on Kashmir and recent Supreme Court judgment on Ayodhya dispute.
As known worldwide, the triple talaq is Sharia based an obnoxious practice in some Muslim countries, including India, whereunder a husband can unilaterally divorce his wife simply saying "talaq" three times often even without any valid grounds. Thousands of Muslim women in India suffer annually on account of this evil social custom and recently a law was passed by the Indian Parliament to make it a punishable offence. Article 370 was a temporary and discriminatory provision included in the Indian Constiution due to prevailing political situation in 1947-48 which the decades of experience proved to be more of a hinderance than help in the develoment, progress and integration of the state with the nation; hence the aforesaid Article was removed in August 2019 through a massive vote on Parliament, with only the Congress and few others against it. The Ayodhya dispute was communally sensitive and pending in courts for over seventy years; the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in November 2019 decreeing the possession of 2.77 acre disputed land one community's deity and 5.00 acre land to other community elsewhere in Ayodhya. In their own wisdom, some Indian liberals and progressive journalists like Ayyub Rana treat it "majoritarian attack" on the rights of Muslims.
In the same blog, quoting a Muslim student from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Rana Ayyub cites utterly obnoxious untruth: “They lynched us; we remained silent. They attacked our institutions; we remained silent. They built detention centers for Muslims; we remained silent. They called us migrants, referred to us as termites, and we continued to remain numb. But now we cannot take a new wound. The citizenship bill is the biggest challenge to India since the Partition of the country, and we are the freedom fighters.” On the other hand, Barkha Dutt writes: “A bigoted new citizenship law that privileges non-Muslims over Muslim migrants - coupled with the government’s proposal to create a national register of citizens (NRC) - has unleashed a set of forces over which the government may no longer have much control. The political motive behind the law was evidently to settle millions of Hindus who originally came into India from Bangladesh, leaving only Muslim refugees to “prove” their Indian-ness”.
Needless to go into all such reports but briefly, here are a few more illustrations of the foreign media reports which not only represent the lack of seriousness in factual reporting but are also indicate some kind of yellow journalism. The New York Times under an utterly misleading title “As Protests Rage, Is India Moving Closer to Becoming a Hindu Nation?” reports preposterously “…Mr. Modi is trying to wrench India away from its secular, democratic roots and turn this nation of 1.3 billion people into a religious state, a homeland for Hindus.” While carrying several reports on the protests, The Guardian has suggested that students and Muslims are providing a rallying point for discontent against the Modi government. Al Jazeera talks about misbehavior with protesting women by the police. The Telegraph suggested the CAA 2019 as the latest in a string of actions the government, led by the Hindu-nationalist BJP, has taken against India’s Muslim population. Evidently, none of them have bothered to sincerely analyse and understand the objective or implication of the CAA.
Instead of indiscriminate and pre-ponderous reporting in the garb of journalism, freedom of expression, and so on, a responsible and reputed media or press is expected to rely on facts and objectivity in reporting. The first and foremost fact is that the Indian Muslims or any other citizens have nothing to do with the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. This act is meant for granting citizenship to the minorities including Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and parsi refugees on humanitarian ground who faced religious persecution in neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan for decades and took refuge in India prior to 31 December 2014 with or without valid travel documents. Muslims are not a persecuted community in these Islamic countries yet on case to case basis, they are granted Indian citizenship on application under relevant law and rules. Ayyub Rana’s far-fetched conclusions may suit the Washington Post or other Modi-baiters but do not auger well to any right-minded person, who would not like to address the prime minister of a country the way she does. In a democratic country where all other citizens of various faiths are regulated with a uniform civil code, she perhaps considers every reform a majoritarian attack on minorities.
Barkha Dutt has intently singled out Bangladesh for refugees; the truth is Hindus and other religious minorities constantly face religious persecution in Islamic Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and take refuge in India while mostly Muslim migrants mainly from Bangladesh infiltrate through a long porous border in the neighbouring West Bengal and Northeastern hill states not due to persecution but mostly for employment and livelihood competing with the meagre state resources of local populace. Therefore, it is not the issue of proving Indian-ness by "Muslim refugees" but of illegal migrants that needs a different approach for redressal rather than the grant of citizen per se. Perhaps the grant of some kind of work-permit for a given period to such people rather than citizenship might help. It is an open secret that Bangladesh and Pakistan had about 22-23 per cent population of minorities at the time of independence in 1947 which has shrunk down to about 7 per cent in Bangladesh and 3 per cent in Pakistan now.
Ironically, some Indian political leaders, journalists, academicians and liberals change their stand and narrative as it suits them with time. The systematic persecution of minorities (mainly Hindus) in the aforesaid Islamic countries for decades and genocide of Hindus during 1971 at the hands of Pakistan army is a well known and documented fact. Some Congress leaders including former chief minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi are on record to have expressed serious concerns of refugees from these countries in the past. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh of Congress strongly advocated in Parliament in 2003 for the citizenship of persecuted minorities from Bangladesh. Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee strongly pleaded in Parliament against the illegal migrants from Bangladesh in the past. Similar views were expressed by many journalists and liberals of the country on the problems of refugees and threats from illegal migrants. But now they have vehemently opposed the move as communal and/or majoritarian just because they are against Mr Modi and his government, in the process forgetting that it is a national and humanitarian cause more than anybody's social or political agenda. So it is not surprising if some of them choose to supply fodder to international media and rights forums too to shine own image at the cost of nation.
Misinformation and Reality
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 is an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 specifically meant for the religiously persecuted minorities in three neighbouring countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It guarantees citizenship to the persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian or Parsi communities of these countries, who have entered into India on or before 31 December 2014 and stayed back in the country to safeguard their lives.
1. Should Indian Muslims be ready to prove pedigree with other papers lest they will lose Indian nationality?
This is the common misinformation and rumour created among the Muslim youth and poor families intently by the vested interests. The CAA is to grant nationality to eligible refugees and the citizens of India are in no way affected. Some mosques in Karnataka and other places are giving erroneous impression to Muslim masses giving needless scope to such rumours. Similarly, some politicians are intently making cryptic public utterances and asking Muslims if they are ready to stand in queues with papers to prove their credentials. It is a false propaganda and no Indian Muslim will be asked to prove pedigree or produce any document to prove citizenship.
2. India will become a Hindu Nation on implementation of this Act and Muslim will lose citizenship and right to property and employment!
India is a democratic and secular country as enshrined in its Constitution and implementation of this act will not make any change in this status of country. This law does not change or affect the status of citizenship of any Indian national including Muslims, their properties and employment in anyway and is meant only for the refugees from three neighbouring countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan as on 31 December 2014.
3. Muslims from other countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan cannot become citizen or take refuge in India after CAA implementation.
This is a false propaganda made by vested interests to create fear and insecurity among Muslims. CAA is one time measure for the religious minorities of the aforesaid three countries, which have come to India after facing persecution in these countries. This neither deletes nor dilutes the existing Naturalisation Laws and any person from any foreign country including neighbouring Islamic countries can apply for Indian citizen under section 6 of the Citizenship Act of 1955. During the last five years, more than 550 Muslims from these countries have been granted Indian citizenship.
4. Will CAA take away franchise right of Muslims and enable government to confiscate their properties and bank accounts?
No, this is rumour and misinformation. Such apprehensions are not true; some mischievous people with vested interests are deliberately spreading misinformation and rumour in this regard.
5. Whether Muslim immigrants living in India will be deported after CAA is implemented?
CAA is a law for the grant of citizenship to six minority communities from three countries living in India, who had entered India with valid travel documents or without such papers due to religious persecution. This, however, does not deal with the deportation of illegal immigrants which is dealt with the laws under the Foreigners Act. Therefore, CAA will not affect the deportation of any illegal immigrant which is to be dealt with separate laws.
6. CAA will enable every Hindu to seek Indian citizenship while Muslims from other countries will be denied!
Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain and Parsi refugees from three countries, who have lived in India for at least five years, will be eligible to apply for the Indian citizenship. All other categories of Hindus, Muslims and all others can get Indian citizenship after complying with the normal naturalization requirements. Therefore, it is in no way discriminatory to Muslims.
7. If CAA caters for the persecuted people on religious ground, why Shia, Ahmediya, Muhajirs, Hazara, etc., Muslims have not been included?
They are various ethnic groups of Muslims and not different religions. Some social or political discrimination against these groups is likely but they do not face en mass religious persecution like other communities in these Islamic countries. CAA deals with religious persecution and not governance problems of the neighbouring Islamic countries. Notwithstanding, any Muslim if persecuted on any ground including religion in these countries can seek asylum in India. India has provided asylum to large number of Tibetans, Sri Lankans, Afghans, Ugandans etc. in the past and many people like Adnan Sami and Taslima Nasreen from Pakistan and Bangladesh granted citizenship. Taslima Nasreen is an author who incurred wrath of jihadis and fundamentalists in Bangladesh, and was forced to leave the country after she documented the persecution and plight of Hindus in her novel "Lajja".
8. CAA violates the Indian Constitution which prohibits any discrimination in the name of religion.
CAA is special law to provide humanitarian relief to a large number of persecuted minorities in three countries. Such measures have been taken in the past too for refugees from Uganda, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It does not dispense with the normal naturalization process for all communities and they can continue hitherto fore to seek Indian citizenship. So the law does not violate Article 14 or any other provision of Constitution. Moreover, the Constitution of India is applicable to Indian citizens and CAA is a special provision for humanitarian relief to those, who are not Indian citizens.
9. NRC will deprive Muslims of their citizenship; thus they will become stateless and sent to Detention Camps.
This is the biggest untruth and lie being spread by some manipulative politicians, clergy and mischievous people. National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been pursued by the Indian government so far only for the Northeastern states in compliance of the Supreme Court order to address the issue of illegal migrants in these small hill states. So for, it is only at conceptual level and it does not discriminate or single out any specific community. Moreover, if at all ever undertaken, it will be equally applicable to Hindus, Muslims and all other communities. The government has time and again assured that any Indian Muslim, or for that purpose Indian citizens belonging to any community, will not face any problem on this account.
Evidently, there is nothing in the new Law that compromises or impinges upon the interests of the Indian Muslims. In fact, it does not affect them in any way; it will grant citizenship to some rather than taking it away from any persons or community. As it appear, the protests were cleverly staged by some fundamentalist clergy, and left and left-centric politicians to incite students and Muslims by creating fear and insecurity among them of losing citizenship and associated rights and privileges but it has gone wrong and protesters have resorted to large scale rioting, arson and violence leading to loss and injury to human lives and public property. Reasons are quite obvious; this government has taken bold and popular decisions for the welfare and progress of all sections of society in short time, which has created panic and fear among opposition parties, media and left-liberals of further losing their ground.
These forces are indeed playing a very dangerous game by creating unrest against the government and giving communal colour to the ongoing protests wherein most protesters are not even aware of the basic issues and what they are fighting for! The “Do or Die” call given to the members of one community citing imaginary and baseless fears by the mischievous elements has already taken the toll of over a dozen lives and it might take a very ugly turn if not stopped forthwith. One would only wish that good sense prevails to the sponsors of these protests and they withdraw it in time. The concerns of Assamese and other hill tribes of the Northeastern states are genuine due to relatively small economy and scarce land availability. Hence the government must endeavor to take every measure to assuage their sentiments and legitimate concerns.
The current unrest in the country leading to large scale arson and violence is also indicative of a definite pattern. It has been more intense and violent in the states where the BJP is either a ruling party or a ruling partner with other regional allies. In all other states, the protests have remained only symbolic to moderate except in West Bengal where the ruling party itself is out on roads with chief minister spearheading the protest. The fundamentalist and militant Popular Front of India, an affiliate or new face of the banned SIMI, appears to be key factor in motivating the minority community to show up on roads for protests. While the top leadership has stayed away but the lower rung leaders of the Congress and other opposition parties have actually led protests at many places. All available indicators suggest that the unrest thus staged is driven more with a political motive than the welfare of a community.
More by : Dr. Jaipal Singh