The new amended law of India in case of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan clearly differentiates between the “immigrant” as the one who seeks the Indian citizenship on the basis of religious persecution, and the “infiltrator” as the one, who sneaks into the country with an ulterior motive.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
The aftermath of passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) as part of country’s existing citizenship law has not been as smooth as that of scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution for the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Opposition parties dominated by the Congress Party that have swallowed their dubious pride with some anger with regard to the Article 370 passing smoothly, are not able to digest the successful approval of the CAB as an act of law (Citizenship Amendment Act) by the Indian Parliament on December 11. These parties, with no clear understanding of the new law, have been currently mobilizing the youth, encouraging them to take to agitational methods to oppose it.
Consequently, the sparks of anger that have been lit by these disgruntled Opposition parties have quickly turned into a wildfire in the northeastern State of Assam. The sparks have started flying across the country simultaneously beginning from West Bengal, Delhi, Aligarh and Lucknow down to the south of the country to the State of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The new law seeks to grant the Indian citizenship to protect the minorities who flee to India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan because of religious persecution there. The minorities in these three countries are Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis.
The people in Assam as also other Northeastern States, which share border with Bangladesh, fear that the new law opens flood gates for immigrants from neighboring countries, thus depriving job opportunities for the locals.
If the trouble stems in Assam from the fear of local people that the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) would result in an influx of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, the fear elsewhere in the country is that it would discriminate against the Muslim community. Some say that the new law is well planned to turn India into a Hindu nation.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who always finds fault with Narendra Modi as a pro-Hindu promoter accusing him of hampering the secular identity of India, took out a massive rally last week encouraging the people to revolt against the Modi government.
The youths and workers, who have always been hostile to illegal migrants in West Bengal, feel their jobs, particularly the ones in the tea gardens, have been “robbed” by such immigrants because they accept low wages.
In Guwahati the agitating mobs consisting of several hundreds of young people have turned violent and set fire to buildings and clashed with the police resulting in the death of two people and injuries to several others on December 12.To maintain law and order, the police have been compelled to fire bullets and use teargas against the violent mobs.
Reports say that peace in many parts of Assam has been disturbed and agitators have vandalized railway stations in the State and tried to set fire to them. In a town called Chabua, protesters have torched government property, including a post office and a police station. The mob has also set fire to the house of Binod Hazarika, a local BJP lawmaker.
A report coming from New Delhi has said that the Jamia Millia Islamia University has turned into a battlefield on December 13 when police tried to stop students, who wanted to march to Parliament House to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. In the clash that ensued, the police detained 50 students. The students alleged that the police baton-charged and use teargas against them. But the police alleged that the students were continuously pelting stones.
The agitation by the students had been so intense that the police had to cordon off the road and shut the gate of the university. But the enraged students continued their vandalism. As a result the police had asked the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to close the entry and exit points at Patel Chowk and Janpath metro stations.
Some student groups alleged the involvement of “outsiders” in the violence to discredit their “legitimate” protests during the time and venue, which were sanctioned by the police.
In Uttar Pradesh, similar incidents of “vandalism” by the students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) have been reported on December 15.
The students claimed that when they marched towards the main campus gate they were verbally abused by security forces posted outside, and later attacked with teargas shells, rubber bullets, stun grenades, pellets and stones. The students dispersed and hid in buildings nearby, but the police and the Rapid Action Force personnel entered the campus forcibly. The students alleged that the police raided hostels.
A fire that began in a hostel room following which the police cut its window mesh and broke the glass pane. As the students started fleeing the room, the police allegedly fired teargas inside. About 60 students were stated to have been injured in the crackdown. According to a report, the AMU will remain closed till January 5 and Internet services would be temporarily suspended to help bring peace in the area.
Sporadic incidents of student unrest resisting the Citizenship Amendment Act have also been reported from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana States.
The student agitation spearheaded by the Opposition parties has been continued despite the clarification by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy.
Narendra Modi said: “No one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow.”
Amit Shah said: “This bill has been introduced not just to run the government as the previous governments did. It has been introduced with a view to perfecting the governance. Actually there is no need for this bill if the country was not divided on the basis of religion. Pakistan was carved out of India basing on its Islamic identity. In fact this bill should have been introduced some 50 years ago. This bill is necessary to protect the honor of the persecuted immigrants of non-Islamic religions living in these three neighboring Islamic countries. This does not mean to refuse citizenship to Muslim immigrants. In the past five years of the Modi government, 500 Muslim immigrants have been granted the Indian citizenship.”
Dr. Subramanian Swamy counter-attacked Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram’s claims on the unconstitutional validity of the bill on the basis of Article 14. Dr. Swamy highlighted that Article 14 can make distinctions based on the equality in entitlements of the people. To prove his point, he also gave an example of SPG protection provided to PM Modi and invoked the 1988 Antulay case as well.
He accused some of the Opposition leaders of misleading the House against CAB. He said, “I think the Opposition is confused between CAB and NRC (National Register of Citizenship) and most of them have argued against the NRC. Those who have argued against CAB have in fact misled the House in some ways.”
For the benefit of those who have no clarity about the Citizenship Amendment Bill, here are the details in a nutshell:
The CAB does affect Indians whether one is a Hindu, a Muslim, or belongs to any other religion. It has nothing to do with Indians in any way.
The bill tries to help the minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Jains Buddhists, Christians and Parsis — who are persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. These three countries have or have had a track record of pervasive, systematic and institutionalized persecution of minority Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians especially the perennial persecution in Pakistan.
The CAB is applicable only to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from three countries, who are facing religious persecution and who are already in India before December 31, 2014.
Yet, the Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will have to go through the usual process of acquiring the Indian citizenship through naturalization rules that include 11 years of residence and other requirements. Based on the merits of each case, they will be considered.
Similarly Baluchis, Ahmediyas in Pakistan, Rohingayas in Myanmar will be considered for the Indian citizenship under the existing laws, and not under the special category. But the residency requirement has been reduced from 11 to 5 years for granting citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from these three countries. And they can claim citizenship under this law.
However, India does not shy away from the obligation under the UN rules to take care of refugees. But it has no obligation to offer them citizenship as each country has its own rules for naturalization. India is not going to turn away other refugees under this law. It will play host to them under UN rules with an implicit expectation that someday they will return to their homelands when the conditions improve. But in the case of minorities in these three countries, this law acknowledges the reality that the environment of persecution is never going to change.
Thus the newly amended citizenship law in case of these three countries clearly differentiates between the “immigrant” as the one who seeks Indian citizenship on the basis of religious persecution, and the “infiltrator” as the one, who sneaks into the country with an ulterior motive.