Amidst US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, the violence by the anti-CAA protesters has escalated in the National Capital Region.
Many vehicles, shops and houses were burnt down during the clashes. A petrol pump was also torched by agitators in Bhajanpura area. Protesters not only engaged in arson but also stone-pelting.
At this time, it is pertinent to take an account of the misinformation spread by the media houses and intellectuals over CAA-NRC, that has played an important role in instigating violence.
Here’s a list.
1. CAA-NRC targets Indian Muslims for detention camps or deportation
CAA has nothing to do with Indian Muslims.
The Act only expedites the pathway to citizenship for the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan (PAB) taking into account their intense persecution in the Islamic nations.
Similarly, NRC does not target any group of citizens based on religion, sex, caste, class etc. It is merely a listing of the citizens of the country. Similar provisions are in place in countries all over the world, including our South Asian neighbours.
We live in a welfare state. Here, illegal immigration means taxpayers’ money is subsidising the illegals pouring in from outside.
Therefore, in a welfare state, a clear enumeration of citizens and non-citizens is necessary. Politicians across the ideological spectrum and political parties have spoken against illegal immigration in the past.
The law regarding NRC was passed way back in 2003, and reportedly unanimously in Rajya Sabha by all parties, including Congress.
A nation-wide NRC in 1951 was conducted by the Nehru-led government.
2. A Muslim Indian excluded from NRC will be deported/detained, while Hindu Indian will have the CAA pathway
The protesters allege that if the NRC exercise is carried out, many from the marginalised sections are liable to be wrongfully excluded, and while the non-Muslims among them will have the path of naturalisation, Muslims will not.
This is incorrect.
CAA 2019 provides an opportunity of naturalisation only to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, not from India.
If Indian non-Muslims are excluded from NRC, they would not benefit under CAA, unless they can prove they came from PAB. This is not something that can be faked easily.
How will an excluded Indian non-Muslim — supposedly someone who is so marginalised that he can’t show any document from India where he lived all his life — provide proof he came from Pakistan?
In fact, if one thinks about it, much before him, an illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant can get fake citizenship documents in India — a phenomenon widely reported.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of India, who are excluded, will be treated equally. Under CAA-NRC, there is no discrimination between a Muslim and a non-Muslim Indian.
3. CAA violates Article 14 as it discriminates on the basis of religion
Except Article 14, all other provisions of equality in the Indian constitution are applicable only to citizens.
But Article 14 has been interpreted by the court not only mandating treating equals equally, but also not treating unequals equally.
That is, the Constitution permits classification of people into different categories for different treatment, just that this classification should be reasonable.
The Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, Sikh and Christian immigrants from PAB can be treated differently by the law on account of their intense religious persecution in the Islamic countries of PAB. This persecution is legalised and institutionalised.
Therefore, distinction based on religion is a reasonable criterion in this case, not in violation of Article 14 at all.
In fact, the classification is in the spirit of Article 14 as it doesn’t treat unequals equally.
The Constitution also clearly states that the Parliament has the power to pass a law to make any provision with respect to all matters relating to citizenship (Article 11), and that the citizenship of a person is subject to such a law (Article 10).
4. If it’s about not treating unequals equally, why exclude Ahmadiyyas?
The bill includes only Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi communities and not, say, Ahmadiyyas (a Muslim sect that is also persecuted in Pakistan) for the similar reason that it doesn’t include Iran, Saudi Arabia, or other Islamic nations.
The Act restricts its domain so as not to interfere into issues of sectarian or communal strife or internal matters of a religion.
The CAA makes a point to not appear as if it is taking sides in theological questions of Islam (whether Ahmadiyyas are Muslims or not) or even the geopolitics of religion worldwide.
The CAA, very carefully, avoids encroaching on political as well as religious sovereignty of Islamic countries as they perceive it, while dealing with the people in its own territory.
Also, since the partition of the subcontinent happened to carve out a separate Muslim homeland, almost all those who fled to India from PAB before December 2014 are non-Muslims.
Ahmadiyyas, as a new sect, in fact, were quite zealous, and one of the most ferocious supporters of the demand for Pakistan.
5. CAA means minority refugees from PAB will come pouring into India. This negates the whole push against illegal immigration
CAA is not a refugee law.
It doesn’t concern itself with religious minorities living in PAB who want to come to India on grounds of persecution.
It only concerns itself with expediting the pathway to citizenship to those religious minorities from PAB who are already living in India.
The CAA provides a cut-off date of December 2014, after which, any religious minority from the neighbouring countries, who flees to India, cannot avail the benefits under the Act.
6. CAA means we accept the two-nation theory of Pakistan
Two-nation theory is not waiting for our rejection or acceptance.
Partition on the basis of a demand for separate Muslim homeland happened. This is the reality. We cannot but accept this reality. Whether we like it or not, we cannot close our eyes and pretend it’s not there.
Our rejection of the two-nation theory doesn’t mean not having to deal with its consequences.
The Nehru-Liaquat pact signed in 1950 obligated Pakistan to protect its religious minorities. However, merely six years later, Pakistan adopted its first Constitution that stated Islam as the state religion.
An Objectives Resolution was incorporated in the 1956 constitution that was presented by Liaquat Ali Khan in 1949 and rejected by all the non-Muslim members of the Constituent Assembly.
Since then, it has been only downhill for non-Muslims in Pakistan.
In the face of failure of the Nehru-Liaquat pact, it becomes India’s duty to protect these people.
7. CAA insults Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other Islamic nations. It is bad foreign policy
If one reads the CAA, she will find that the legislation is very limited in its scope, and grounds itself in historical realities of the Indian subcontinent, instead of foreign policy, or geopolitics of religion around the world.
Only the people already in the territory of India are included.
Only non-Muslim minorities are included for the reasons mentioned previously.
Only Islamic nations are selected because of the long history of systematic persecution of non-Muslims in the name of Islam in the subcontinent.
The subcontinent has been diverse, and of course, where there is diversity, there would be some tension between different communities (even within same communities, such is human nature).
However, Islamic persecution stands out, not just because of the depth of the emphasis on the religious factor, but also its length and breadth.
While persecution of non-Muslim minorities occurs in many Islamic nations, only Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh are selected because of the cultural and geographical affinity that render the Indian subcontinent as one unit in history.
By limiting the scope of the bill in space, time and eligibility, CAA has avoided raising eyebrows of Islamic nations, many of whom are strategic partners of India, and has maintained intact the promise of CAA being truly an internal matter of the country.
8. After CAA, Muslims will be restricted from applying for Indian citizenship
Indian law provides several different pathways to Indian citizenship.
For legal migrants, who want to apply for citizenship of India, all the rules are the same. There is no discrimination between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan can also become Indian citizens through the legal ways, like everyone else.
9. No other democratic country would pass such a law differentiating people based on religion
All countries in the world tightly control their citizenship laws and the criteria. If the need arises, religion can very well come up in the equation.
For example, US’s Lautenberg Amendment that provides special treatment to Jews, evangelical Christians etc.
10. CAA negates Nehru, Gandhi and other freedom fighters’ vision. This is the first time that religion has come up as a criteria
How will it not, in a country which has seen Partition on the basis of the demand of a separate Muslim homeland?
How will it not, in a subcontinent with bitter history of persecution of Hindus that is alive and thriving in states that have declared themselves to be constitutionally Islamic?
The complaint about religion coming up in matters of citizenship is about 70 years too late.
Also, this is not the first time that a distinction is made on the basis of religion in independent India.
A 1947 proposal of the Congress Working Committees states:
Congress is bound to give protection to all those non-Muslims who, to protect their lives and dignity, have crossed-over the border, and come to India, or will come in the future
Mahatma Gandhi as said on 7 July 1947:
The Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan, if they don’t want to live there, then they can come to India without a doubt. In this matter, to provide them with employment, citizenship, a life of dignity and happiness, is the first duty of the Government of India.
In December 2003, former PM Manmohan Singh said:
Minorities in countries like Bangladesh are facing persecution, and if the situation forces them to, they come to India. In this case, it is our moral responsibility that we grant them citizenship. The government should think about it.
The current Chief Minister of the Congress-led government in Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, had said in a letter to the then finance minister in 2009:
I want to attract your attention towards the displaced Hindus and Sikhs that have come to India from Pakistan. These people are illiterate, and come from the backward SC, ST communities. They are living in extreme poverty. They are demanding Indian citizenship. They should be granted Indian citizenship immediately.
The views of Babasaheb Ambedkar on Partition and full exchange of population are well-known.
The 2003 rules brought out by the Vajpayee government, of providing citizenship to minority Hindus from Pakistan in Gujarat and Rajasthan, were extended by the succeeding UPA government.
In 2010, the Congress government provided special treatment to Muslim males who went to Pakistan after partition in 1947, but returned later and settled in Kerala.