Retract the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and save our constitution!
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No, I'm not a Muslim. No, I'm not directly ill-affected by The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB). As a Sikh, my community is included in the beneficiaries of the CAB. But as a citizen I feel disgusted that my fellow Muslims will be discriminated against.
CAB goes against the secular spirit of our constitution. It is wrong on multiple levels and hopefully the Hon'ble Supreme Court would quash the bill. However, I'm hoping the Hon'ble Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah would come to realize that this is not what the people of India want and retract the bill. As such this petition is to bring together the voices of such people. Here are a few pointers as to why the bill is so deplorable:
1. Introduction: The CAB promises to give protection of citizenship to non-muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. This explicit exclusion of Muslims is wrong and un-secular. This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the BJP’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country and takes away from the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.
2. The assumption that religious persecution does not operate against co-religionists is false. Shias in Pakistan, a different sect of the same religion, face severe persecution in Pakistan. The fact that atheists are missing from the list of beneficiaries is shocking. Ahmadiyas in Pakistan are not recognised as Muslims there and are treated as belonging to a separate religion.
How does one explain how a Rohingya who has saved himself from harm in Myanmar by crossing into India will not be entitled to be considered for citizenship, while a Hindu from Bangladesh, who is primarily an economic migrant and who may not have faced any direct persecution in his life, will be entitled to be considered apparently on the ground of religious persecution?
3. While debating the CAB in Lok Sabha, Amit Shah said that the government has reduced the minimum residency period to grant citizenship to non-muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, so that they can be a part of the voters list by 2020. This suggests a different hidden agenda than the narrative that's been presented to us by the BJP.
4. The basis of clubbing Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh together and thereby excluding other (neighbouring) countries is unclear. The reason stated in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Bill is that these three countries constitutionally provide for a “state religion”; thus, the Bill is to protect “religious minorities” in these theocratic states. This reason does not hold water. Why then is Bhutan, which is a neighbour and constitutionally a religious state excluded from the list? Further, if religious persecution of “religious minorities” in the neighbourhood is the concern, then why has Sri Lanka, which is Buddhist majority and has a history where Tamil Hindus have been persecuted, been excluded? Why is also Myanmar, which has conducted a genocide against Muslim Rohingyas, many of who have been forced to take refuge in India, not been included? The CAB selection of only these three countries is manifestly arbitrary.
5. Even those who support its stated objective should oppose it for one simple reason—its extremely high cost of error, which, given India’s poor state capacity, is inevitable. Details are given in the Mint article 'The inevitability of errors in determining citizenship' by Shruti Rajagopalan.
Last words: CAB is devoid of any constitutional logic, as explained above. But it does have a sinister political logic. By prioritising Hindus in matters of citizenship as per law, it seeks to make India a Hindu homeland, and is the first de jure attempt to make India a Hindu Rashtra. If India is to stay a country for Indians and not for Hindu Afghans, Hindu Pakistanis and Hindu Bangladeshis and eventually for Hindu Russians, Hindu Americans, the judiciary must call it out for what it is — a patently unconstitutional piece of legislation. Else, make no mistake, it is only the beginning and not the end of similar legal moves, which, with time, will bring an end to the Constitution as we know it.
Credits for the details:
'A patently unconstitutional piece of legislation' in The Hindu by Shadan Farasat
'In the name of a majority' in The Hindu by Anupama Roy
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