The CAB must rank as one of the most unnecessary pieces of divisive legislations passed by Parliament.
When political parties achieve unexpected electoral victories, they often become delusional about their powers. Something of this nature seems to have happened to the BJP after its success in the 2019 parliamentary elections. It has come to believe that it alone has the right to decide on what is good for the country, and nobody else has the right to question it. In its mind, the partisan interests of the party has become one with the good of the country, and the party’s manifesto has become more important than the Constitution of India.
Nothing else can explain this statement made by Amit Shah: “It (the Citizenship Amendment Bill: CAB) has the endorsement of 130 crore citizens as it was a part of the BJP’s manifesto in 2014 as well as in the 2019 elections”. The intent of the statement is clear. Since the BJP won the 2019 parliamentary elections in 2019, anything that is part of its party manifesto must have the backing of all of India’s citizens. No one has the right to disagree. The party has become the sole repository of what is good for the country. Anyone opposing the BJP is against the interests of the country.
This becomes evident if one examines the BJP’s agenda since its victory in the 2019 elections. Irrespective of what is good for the country, items on its party manifesto are being ticked off for implementation in a tearing hurry. Article 370 was abrogated without even a proper discussion on the move, without taking into account the consequences of the action, and in a deliberate subversion of the express provisions of the Constitution. The Triple Talaq Bill was rushed through without taking into account the constructive views of those who felt the bill was flawed, even if such critics were in agreement with the goal of doing away with this pernicious practice. A visible arrogance and hubris informs the party’s actions, leaving little space for debate, dissent and even well-intentioned critique.
Such an approach has led to a great deal of instability in the country. The CAB must rank as one of the most unnecessary pieces of divisive legislations passed by Parliament. If the purpose was to grant citizenship to those seeking asylum or the citizenship of India on account of religious persecution in their country of origin, the provisions of the already existing Citizenship Act could have been tweaked or modified. But the real purpose of the bill was different. It was to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities on the exclusionary basis of religion by singling out for inclusion only three countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh — while leaving out others such as Sri Lanka, Nepal or Myanmar.
This totally unacceptable and flawed piece of legislation directly militates against the expression provision of Article 14 which says that “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. To justify the CAB, home minister Amit Shah lurched back to the unfulfilled agenda of Partition. His logic was that Pakistan was created on the basis of an Islamic state. Therefore, India should also discriminate between those seeking its citizenship on similar grounds of religion. Perhaps the BJP can be forgiven for not fully understanding the basis on which the idea of India was enshrined in our Constitution. The RSS was not part of the freedom movement, nor was it associated with the ideas that moulded the spirit animating the creation of the republic. The idea of India is directly antithetical to the idea of Pakistan. The founding principle of our Constitution is respect for all faiths, equality for all our citizens, and a resounding no to the politics of dividing people on the basis of religion. That is why India has flourished, and is India and not Pakistan.
The CAB’s, and the even more pernicious National Register of Citizens’ (NRC) aim is to divide India and disrupt its peace and harmony. The NRC was mandated by the Supreme Court for Assam. But even there, it has only created discord, harassment and instability, and has — ironically enough — been rejected by BJP leaders themselves. There is no judicial mandate to extend the NRC to the entire country. But the BJP insists that it will do just that. On what basis? And for what ends? A dangerous unilateralism informs the BJP’s actions, where the nation’s interests have become subordinate to the narrow, partisan goals of its party agenda.
The people of India — including Hindus — do not want this constant state of turmoil, this perpetual discord and acrimony, this unending drumbeat of instability. They want to get on with their lives, in peace and security, and enjoy the secular dividends of a nation at rest with itself: good education, a prosperous economy, job opportunities, serviceable roads, assured water and electricity, accessible hospitals and three square meals a day. But it is precisely this agenda that does not appear to be the priority of the BJP government. The economy is in a tailspin, agriculture is languishing, law and order is disintegrating, jobs are disappearing. However, the BJP’s concerns are the abrogation of Article 370, the CAB and the NRC, not jobs, economic progress and social harmony. The results are there to see. The entire Northeast is in flames. Kashmir is alienated. And these are sensitive border states, where stability is of paramount importance.
The people of India must make the choice between discord and harmony, peace and strife, equality and discrimination, democracy and diktat, stability and instability and economic progress and social divisiveness.