The CAB is a Trap by BJP to Divide and Rule India

The CAA is a BJP Trap To Divide and Rule India

A country with 1.37 billion population and minus GDP rate, even down from its small and poorer neighbour Bangladesh, and has millions of job deficits in the market; it is now  inviting more people from other countries as its citizens on communal grounds. Is this a commonsensical move?

By M Burhanuddin Qasmi

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) is a trap set by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to "Divide and Rule" India. The Act is by all means against the interests of India. It is communally biased and clearly against the spirit of Indian's secular democratic Constitution. The Preamble of India's Constitution unequivocally laid down the foundation of our nation which is secular and equal for all citizens as it states:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.”

The CAA is in clear violation of Article 13, 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Indian Constitution along with Assam Accord 1985. Here under we only put the text of a few Articles which reads:

“13. Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights (2) The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void”.

“14. Equality before law: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

“15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth:

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, and place of birth or any of them.

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction ...”

What is CAA?

CAA or Citizenship (Amendment) Act is a piece of new legislation proposed by the BJP-led Government of India in the Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016, amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 8 January 2019, after it was introduced by the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It was to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha and passed to be incorporated in the Principal Act.

However, the Bill lapsed on 3 June 2019 as the term of the 16th Lok Sabha ended then and the BJP Government could not work out the numbers to table it in the Upper House of Parliament.

The BJP came into power again for the 17th Lok Sabha following the general election result on 23 May 2019.

The Union Cabinet cleared the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill for Parliament on December 4, 2019 once again and the Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 9 2019 for the second time when Rajnath Singh was replaced by Amit Shah as Home Minister of India. The Bill was easily passed in the Lok Sabha this time again as the numbers favour the ruling Party in the Lower House.

However, it was supposed to face the Rajya Sabha test for the first time and face a tougher challenge. Nevertheless, the ruling party – BJP managed the floor of the parliament better this time and subsequently the CAA was passed even by the Upper House of Indian Parliament on 11 December, 2019 after much hue and cry.

The nationwide protests against the Bill, especially very strong agitations in Assam and North-eastern states from all corners, meant nothing for the ruling power in Delhi. The protests fire-balled into a major crisis in India with over 23 people killed in Assam, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh in police resorting to firing against protestors till 21 December 2019. These losses of lives were just during the 10 days of protests following the passing of the CAA in the Rajya Sabha. The protests against the CAA and NRC in length and breadth of the country still continued unabated. 

Protests spread to major universities, IIM and IIT campuses and they all are demanding that the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) be scrapped outright. The students from prestigious universities like Oxford in UK, Cambridge in USA and so many others from across the world also came out on streets in solidarity with Jamia Millia University and Aligarh Muslim University students who faced excessive use of force, and in some cases brutality, of Delhi and UP police respectively, during their protest against CAA. The UNO, UNHRC and both civil and rights group have also protested and experienced serious concerns over the CAA which is against its secular constitutional values and on religious ground only, they observed.

Assam has been a peaceful state following 1985 Assam Accord on foreigners issue but now it is again put on boiling pan by the BJP-led Central and State Governments. Nobody knows how long this will go on and how many more valuable lives it may consume.

The CAA provides citizenship to the so-called refugees from religious communities, namely— Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsi or Christian, except Muslims, coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Act also relaxes the requirement of residence in India from 11 years to 5 years only, for these migrants. The Act excludes all states under the 6th Schedule or with the inner-line borders within the country.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 provides Indian citizenship to a particular group of immigrants. It reads:

“2. In the Citizenship Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), in section 2, in sub-section (1), in clause (b), the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:—

“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014…, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”

3. After section 6A of the principal Act, the following section shall be inserted, namely:—

“6 B. … (2) Subject to fulfillment of the conditions specified in section 5 or the qualifications for naturalisation under the provisions of the Third Schedule, a person granted the certificate of registration or certificate of naturalisation under sub-section (1) shall be deemed to be a citizen of India from the date of his entry into India.

(3) On and from the date of commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, any proceeding pending against a person under this section in respect of illegal migration or citizenship shall stand abated on conferment of citizenship to him.”

The move has been justified by the ruling BJP stating protection of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan only, and not surprisingly UN-designated refugees from Buddhist majority country – Myanmar, majority of them happen to be Muslims. However, there are refugees from other religious communities including Hindus from Myanmar.

Strikingly, this propagated to be a humanitarian amendment in India's Citizenship Act 1955 did not offer anything to all those Buddhists from Tibet who are here in big number with Dalai Lama and they migrated due to recorded persecution in their country. The CAA also does not speak anything about Tamil Hindu refugees from Buddhist Sri Lanka or persecuted refugees of any religion from Communist China – the duo are also nearest neighbours of India. Similarly, the Act does not speak anything about the atheist community from any of India's neighbouring countries – though they might also be suffering trials too.

BJP's Divisive Politics

To keep the negative criticisms at bay and to cover its communal and biased attitude in the Western capitals, the ruling Party of India offered lollipops to them by including Christians and Buddhists in the CAA, whereas, the Party's stand about Christianity and Buddhism is known to the world through its past track records.

 It is a commonsense knowledge that no Christian or Buddhist is coming to seek citizenship in India from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan on the ground of “religious persecution” – the un-worded narrative in the CAA, because they too face the same “humiliation” in India as Muslims do. 

The 'religious persecutions' as state policy, in the aforementioned three countries against any faith holder, is a fallacy, created by the BJP for political polarization in India. Stray cases of communal hatred, riots and even harassments against minority communities by majority communities do exist in all countries of the world including Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India is one of the worst among them going by the recent statistics and incidents since 2014. Lynching of minority community members and Dalits, violence by cow vigilantes, forced chanting of 'Jai Shri Ram' and public humiliation of certain minority community members are just a few instances in India which have not been seen in any of its neighbouring countries.

In the CAA, all except Muslims are taken on board. Muslims are singled out this time. The Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other minority groups in India have been offered solace in the Act to remain silent against it even though it is in clear violation of India's secular and democratic values which are the soul of its Constitution.

Next time, if any other minority group is singled out, Muslims along with rest of the groups may get some verbal assurances in name only. 'Single out and hunt at ease' is the code of any divisive policy. “Ethnic cleansing” has been happening against Rohingyas in Myanmar but that didn't strike our sense of humanity in India!

In the present Act all major divisive aspects, be it religious, linguistic or regional are present in ample measure. The BJP is apparently mastering divisive and vote bank politics, in one move after another in India.

Unfortunately, India's non-BJP political leaders are deliberately not going against it for their vested interests only and the India's larger civil society is still in wait and watch mood. The present protests in streets are mainly by the students' bodies, larger civil society is though alarmed and concerned but reacting on social media.                     

The CAA is actually a trap by BJP, set to win West Bengal in the upcoming assembly election in the state. The National Register for Citizenship (NRC) exercise in Assam was disastrous for the ruling Party. It has taken away communal issues from the Party for politicking and has grossly backfired. The NRC has damaged its interests because its vote bastion – Bengali Hindu immigrants are major victims of the Assam NRC. The much politicised target of the NRC exercise in Assam – Bengali Muslims, is missed from the line of fire this time.

The BJP plans by this Act to appease Bengali Hindus in Assam, Tripura and West Bengal and play with them as long-time vote banks in the entire Northeast. The Party is trying to gift Indian citizenship to all legal or illegal Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh under the tag of 'refugees' and consolidate their numbers in the region. The other two names of the countries or people from other religions are simply an eye-wash to lend some semblance of legitimacy to the Act. Furthermore, it is aimed to polarize its vote bank in rest of India against Muslims.  

Here the BJP has taken a calculative risk, as it knows it might lose Assam in the upcoming elections due to CAA but it thinks it may win West Bengal with a linguistic divide between Assamese and Bengalis in Assam. West Bengal is a bigger and stronger state. It knows well that the Assamese diaspora is very weak when compared with the Bengali diaspora in India and worldwide.

Therefore, for BJP it might be “smart” move to attract Bengalis and win West Bengal by all means in the upcoming assembly election in 2021. How smart the move has been will be known only after Bengal result.

The Assamese are Major Losers Following the CAA

The BJP-led government of India has also successfully divided the people of Northeast by exempting some states or some tribal areas within a state from the CAA. The tribal areas of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya which are under the 6th Schedule and the states with the inner-line borders such as Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh etc. are now completely barred from the CAA in its latest version.

Obviously, they have no reason to be worried and so may not protest against the Act as they did earlier in January 2019. Bodo, Dimahasa and Garo autonomous districts of Assam are also exempted and thus any violent uprising against the Act from Assam's tribal belts is smartly side-stepped by the Government. Now it is up to the people of Northeast to decide should they remain divided in small groups or face the challenge unitedly. 

Following the passing of the CAA the major losers here are the people of mainland Assam in the Northeast today. This would blunt the outcome of recently ended Assam NRC which was done following vigorous scrutiny, unbearable pain and enormous sacrifices. They will also lose both Assam Agitation and Assam Accord benefits forever. The major demographic and social impact of the CAA will be on Assam as a state. Significantly, Assamese linguistic dominance will be under serious threat following the influx of thousands of people from Bangladesh as Bengali Hindu 'refugees'.

There are major protests in Assam from all corners of the state but are not in unison, which I think will not make much impact on the Act anymore. All Assam Students Union (AASU) is a stronger force in Assam but now it cannot fight this battle alone on linguistic basis only. AASU's own former leaders are now ruling Assam as BJP leaders. The situation is completely different from 1985, is a fact which present AASU leadership needs to realize.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is the third strongest political force in Assam at present and it has been opposing the Act from Assam on constitutional grounds in the Assam Assembly as well as in the Parliament. However, the single-minded attitude of AIUDF too will not work in this case. If these two (AASU and AIUDF) and all other small groups, opposing the Bill unite as common force against the CAA, then only they may put up a strong front against the Act and save Assam from negative politicking of the BJP.

Possible Impacts of CAA on India

Metro cities such Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore etc., and of course Kolkata will have immediate impact after CAA, as immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan will avail citizenship there as 'refugees'.

This Act also can be a security threat for India because spies from enemy countries may avail citizenship and even may seek positions in important jobs in our country in the guise of 'refugees'.  The states such as Assam, West Bengal and Tripura will have serious impact in their overall functioning and in the demographic composition of these states in the aftermath of the CAA.

A country with 1.37 billion population and minus GDP rate, even down from its small and poorer neighbour Bangladesh, and has millions of job deficits in the market; it is now inviting more people from other countries as its citizens on communal grounds. Is this a commonsensical move?

It is hard to understand as why non-BJP NDA partners did not oppose this Act which goes utterly against the interests of India as well as its democratic and secular constitutional values.     

It is notable that Muslims of India are not actually losing much here except that some of those Bengali Muslims who are presently excluded from the NRC in Assam may suffer more.

However, emotional down playing and obvious discrimination by the lawmakers is a painful feeling for all 200 million Muslims being the loyal citizens of India. It is an attack on their dignity and integrity which the Constitution of India had guaranteed them.

However, the major impact is going to be over India as a secular democratic country of the world. From here India is going to be changed forever, whether one may like it or not.

The author is an Assamese native and editor of Eastern Crescent, Mumbai.