PROF SHAMSUL ISLAM | Caravan Daily
THE Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB) that promises to open the door for Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who got into India (on or before December 31, 2014) from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, facing religious persecution, was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 9, 2019.
This bill transgressing the fundamental soul of the democratic-secular polity of the country was passed in less than 8 hours due to RSS/BJP rulers enjoying brute majority in Lok Sabha. Sadly, it happened on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the 10th December. It would replace the Citizenship Act, 1955 which made no such distinction.
It is not difficult to understand that it is the first step in the direction of bringing in a more monstrous law for scrutinizing citizenship of all existing Indian citizens. The NRC exercise is going to play havoc with crores of Indians specially marginalized and Muslims.
Let us examine the Amit Shah’s defence of this Bill in the Indian Parliament and outside one by one.
(1) CAB attempts to bury the democratic-secular Constitution of India
Shah while piloting the Bill in Lok Sabha declared that it was in accordance with the Indian Constitution as “the Constitution is our religion.” PM who abstained from the House due to election engagement in Jharkhand reposed full faith in Amit Shah by declaring that “This bill is in line with India’s centuries old ethos of assimilation and belief in humanitarian values”. [https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/citizenship-bill-clears-lok-sabha-after-fierce-rights-debate/story-iW8bp1uexLNaStZvhwqwFN.html]
These are shameless lies. This bill, first of its kind in independent India, sanctions blatant violation of Article 15 of the Constitution which decrees that “no person shall be discriminated on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth”. This bill claims that it is an amendment to the existing citizenship law, Citizenship Act of 1955. However, it is against the existing law as under this Act Indian citizenship could be acquired by birth, descent, registration, naturalization or incorporation of territory. Thus the present bill violates the secular character of the Indian Constitution which was declared to be one of the four inviolable pillars of the polity.
(2) It is part of global anti-Muslim polarizing agenda of RSS
Amit Shah while presenting this bill declared that it was not against minorities. According to him, “under PM Narendra Modi no minority needs to be afraid”. [https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/citizenship-bill-clears-lok-sabha-after-fierce-rights-debate/story-iW8bp1uexLNaStZvhwqwFN.html]
He seemed to be a large hearted home minister who would welcome all “Those who come here due to persecution, to save their religion and honour of the women of their family…” [Ibid]
The humanitarian Amit Shah argued “If minorities are getting persecuted in neighbouring countries, we cannot be mute spectators. We have to ensure their safety and dignity”. [https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/citizenship-bill-clears-lok-sabha-after-fierce-rights-debate/story-iW8bp1uexLNaStZvhwqwFN.html]
However, his claims fall flat on the ground when we read the bill. Persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are welcome but persecuted Muslims like Shias, Ahmedyas and Sufis not eligible for this offer. According to RSS/BJP rulers persecuted Muslims were not considered because they did not constitute a minority but were all Muslims. Even illiterates know that in the three countries these above mentioned sects have been declared as non-Muslims.
Amit Shah highly worried about religious persecution in three Muslim countries is not bothered about the persecution of rationalist, liberal and atheist writers, poets, bloggers and activists who in hundreds have been killed by religious vigilante groups. For long time India has been denouncing ethnic cleansing of Baloch nationalists. Thousands of them have been killed by the Pakistani armed forces and hundreds remain missing. Since they are Muslims they will not be welcome as refugees despite their continuous ethnic cleansing!
And what about persecuted Uighur Muslim minority in China? According to a UN committee more than one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups had been detained in concentration camps in the western Xinjiang region, where they were said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes. [https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-45474279]
Recently, US Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill aimed at pressuring China over a brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the far west of the country. [https://www.cbsnews.com/news/congress-approves-bill-condemning-china-for-persecution-of-ethnic-muslims/]
Amit Shah’s argument for not allowing persecuted Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is that latter are not minorities in their respective countries. But persecuted Uighur Muslims are a religious minority in China. Denial of a refugee status to them under the CAB 2019 only shows hatred for Muslims and kowtowing to the Chinese rulers.
Tragedy is soon to unfold for Afghans who in hundreds, many of them women, migrated to India due to excesses of Talibans. Once CAB becomes a law all these Afghan refugees are going to be forced back into Afghanistan, large part of which is under Taliban control for cleansing.
The love for Christians in the neighbouring countries is more puzzling as after Muslims, this community has faced the maximum violence at the hands of RSS goons. The most prominent ideologue of RSS declared Indian Christians as ‘Internal threat number 2’ after Muslims who were declared as ‘Internal threat number 1’.
[MS Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 193.]
Amit Shah’s farcical love for Christians is soon going to be exposed. In next couple of days Indian Parliament will pass the Constitution (126th Amendment) Bill which will do away with the nomination of Anglo-Indian members to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures from January 25, 2020. Nomination to Anglo-Indians was provisioned in the Constitution in order to give representation to a section of Christians who were incapable of getting elected any member of their community due to small number. In fact, despite this provision in force, since the 17th Lok Sabha was constituted (more than six month back), the Modi government did not nominate any member from the Anglo-Indian community to the House. [https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/anglo-indian-appeal-on-nominated-members/cid/1725605?ref=top-stories_home-template]
The regime which is bothered about the persecution of Christians across the borders is working over-time to deprive them of all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
BTW, once CAB becomes a law, Taslima Nasreen will have to be deported to Bangladesh.
(3) Love for Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists who are decreed as Hindus in India by RSS
Amit Shah’s love for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is puzzling. As RSS member he does not accord the status of independent religion to their respective religions. His Guru Golwalkar taught him that Hindus should not be divided into Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, “the Buddhists, the Jain, the Sikh are all included in that one comprehensive word ‘Hindu'”.
[MS Golwalkar, The Spotlights, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1974, p. 171.]
(4) Mysterious cut-off date
The cut-off date for seeking refuge in India by the persecuted communities has been fixed on or before December 31, 2014. It means that there has been no persecution of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis in the three countries after December 31, 2014. It only shows complete disregard of the present reality in India’s neighbourhood. The cut-off date was tailor made to assuage the mounting anger of more than fifteen lakh Hindus who have been declared foreigners in Assam. But it has opened the old wounds in Assam where organizations fighting for the Assamese identity have risen in revolt against CAB.
(5) Persecuted Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka left in the lurch
CAB is silent on Sri Lanka where large scale massacre of Hindu Tamilians have taken place. The fascist Buddhist organizations in Sri Lanka have been demanding Sri Lanka for Sinhalese only. Amit Shah and his Hindutva government have brazenly betrayed the persecuted Hindu Tamilians of Sri Lanka who were forced to migrate to India during the civil war or still facing persecution there. Shockingly, this bill sacrifices safety of even Hindus in the neighbourhood.
(6) Amit Shah’s hypocrisy on ‘one nation, one legislation’
RSS/BJP rulers have been pro-active on the demand that India is one nation and should have one law on each issue. [https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/india-news-one-nation-one-legislation-after-article-370-uniform-civil-code-bjps-next-how-it-will-impact-you/302079]
Interestingly, so far India had one citizenship law but CAB will give birth to multiple laws of citizenship. The present bill exempts the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, almost the whole of Meghalaya, and parts of Assam and Tripura, but keeps all of Manipur under its ambit which may also be made an exception. Thus citizenship will be governed by plethora of laws bidding good-bye to the goal of ‘one nation, one legislation’.
(7) CAB 2019 & NRC were scripted by the Guru of hate Golwalkar in 1939
CAB 2019 is the resurrection of what the most important ideologue of RSS, Golwalkar decreed in his 1939 book We or Our Nationhood Defined about the character of Indian nation. According to him it was, it is and will remain an exclusive Hindu nation. Amit Shah while presenting this bill declared that it was not against minorities. The reality is that it is not only against the minorities but against democratic-secular Constitution of India. The RSS has been allergic to the idea of an all-inclusive India since its birth in 1925.
Golwalkar declared that in, “Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation…Consequently only those movements are truly ‘National’ as aim at rebuilding, re-vitalizing and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Notion”.
[MS Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publication, Nagpur, 1939, p. 43]
He went to the extent of declaring that all those who did not believe in establishing the Hindu nation “are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots”. [MS Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publication, Nagpur, 1939, p. 44.]
Golwalkar like other RSS leaders was a great fan of Hitler and Mussolini. Glorifying the genocide of Jews by Nazis he wrote:
“German Race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.” [Italicized for emphasis]
[M.S. Golwalkar, We Or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publications, Nagpur, 1939, p. 35.]
Golwalkar unhesitatingly wanted to model his Hindu Rashtra or Nation on Hitler’s totalitarian and fascist pattern as is clear from the following words of his in the same book:
“It is worth bearing well in mind how these old Nations solve their minorities [sic] problem. They do not undertake to recognize any separate element in their polity. Emigrants have to get themselves naturally assimilated in the principal mass of the population, the National Race, by adopting its culture and language and sharing in its aspirations, by losing all consciousness of their separate existence, forgetting their foreign origin. If they do not do so, they live merely as outsiders, bound by all the codes and conventions of the Nation, at the sufferance of the Nation and deserving no special protection, far less any privilege or rights.
There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minorities [sic] problem. That is the only logical and correct solution. That alone keeps the national life healthy and undisturbed. That alone keeps the nation safe from the danger of a cancer developing into its body politic of the creation of a state within a state.“ [Italicized for emphasis]
[M.S. Golwalkar, We Or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publications, Nagpur, 1939, p. 47.]
Surprisingly, a noted Congress leader, M. S. Aney, also known as Loknayak [people’s leader], agreed to write a foreword for We or Our Nationhood Defined, a terribly anti-minority and pro-Nazism/Fascism booklet. Golwalkar’s choice for him was understandable as, though being a Congress leader, Aney subscribed to the idea of Hindus being a separate nation and subsequently India being essentially a Hindu nation.
However, even for a sympathizer of Hindu nation like Aney, the extreme ideas demanding total subjugation and cleansing of minorities propounded by Golwalkar in the booklet were unpalatable. Aney, rightly realizing that for Golwalkar the terms, ‘minority’ or ‘foreign race’ meant only Muslims, tried to distance himself from the totalitarian kind of solutions prescribed by Golwalkar.
“I find that the author, in dealing with the problems of the Mohmeddans’ [sic] place, has not always borne in mind the distinction between the Hindu nationality and Hindu sovereign state. Hindu nation as a sovereign state is entirely a different entity from the Hindu nation as a cultural nationality. No modern state has denied the resident minorities of different nationalities rights of citizenship of the state if they are once naturalized either automatically or under the operation of a statute.”
[M.S. Golwalkar, We Or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publications, Nagpur, 1939, p. xiii.]
Interestingly, these critical comments of Aney were removed in next editions of the book.
RSS/BJP rulers led by diehard Hindu nationalists like Modi and Amit Shah are working overtime (they claim to be working 18 hours a day!) to convert democratic-secular India into a Hindutva theocracy. With capitulated Parliament and judiciary, the only hope is that people of India would resist this undoing of democratic-secular India.
(Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. The views are personal and Caravan does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.)