Gujarat citizens: Citizenship Bill refuses to provide ‘equal rights’ to all religious groups
December 12, 2019
A group of 232 activists, academics, students, artists and concerned citizens, mainly from Gujarat, have signed a statement condemning the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), saying, not only is CAB discriminatory, worse, the Government of India has had little or no communication with neighbouring countries on the practical aspects of its execution, especially deportation of migrants.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (2019) has recently been approved by the Union Cabinet. Based on media reports and an erstwhile lapsed version of the bill, it appears that the proposed law will grant Indian citizenship to any Hindu, Christian, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, and Buddhist refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived before December 31, 2014.
It will not apply to the tribal areas of the northeast, in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. While the Citizenship Amendment Bill’s stated purpose is to offer refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries, it only applies to a small, very specific group of minorities and countries.
It conveniently omits Ahmadis from Pakistan, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and Tamils from Sri Lanka, proving that the bill is not about protecting refugees, but instead is intended simply to advance the agenda of Hindutva. In turn, the law will inflame passions, and sharpen communal divisions all over the country, particularly in Bengal, Assam, and other states of the North East.
The Home Minister, Amit Shah, has stated in clear terms the intention of the government to “kick out every intruder except Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs." The exclusion of Muslims from his speech, and from this Bill is aimed is to further divide the country along communal lines, and target a vulnerable minority community.
The final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam categorised over 19 lakh people as “illegal immigrants,” the majority of whom have lived in Assam for decades. Sources suggest that more than 14 lakh people on the list are Hindu whereas5 lakh are Muslim. As soon as these figures came in, BJP leaders demanded that the NRC be conducted once more, as there were Hindus than Muslims on the list.
They then tried to divide people throughout Bengal and the North East by promising citizenship to only the Hindus on the list. Not only is this amendment discriminatory, it is also poorly planned. In Assam, which has a population of 3.5 crores, the government of India has spent 1,600 crore rupees in order to implement the NRC. We must consider the financial cost of implementing such a system throughout the country.
The Union Government plans to replicate the NRC in all Indian states to drive out the so-called infiltrators and foreign migrants. If the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act take effect, it would mean that these undocumented migrants will be granted Indian citizenship as long as they are not Muslims.
Additionally, there has been little to no communication with neighbouring countries on the practical aspects of execution, especially deportation of migrants. When the Indian Prime Minister met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the UN General Assembly, he assured her that the NRC process happening in India would not affect Bangladesh.
Within India, the government has stated that illegal immigrants will be kicked out of the country. The Constitution of India is founded on the values of secular democracy providing equality of rights across religious groups. The proposed amendments to the citizenship law are an affront to the Constitution. On the face of it, these amendments violate Article 14, which guarantees equality under the law, and Article 15, which prohibits the state to discriminate on religious lines.
"Narendra Modi assured Sheikh Hasina at UN General Assembly that the NRC process happening in India would not affect Bangladesh"
Both of these articles are part of the Basic Structure of Indian Constitution which cannot be amended under any circumstances by the Parliament, as declared by the Supreme Court of India in the Keshavnanda Bharati (1973) judgement. If this law comes into effect, it will overturn one of India’s most important values, and determine citizenship on the basis of religion.
This would damage the very fabric of this country, and opposing this law is imperative for all Indians. Not only will this law contradict the founding values of the Indian republic, but it will also change the character of this nation forever. By converting India into a homeland of Hindus, it mimics a dangerous idea of ethnic citizenship which has always provoked disharmony and violence across the world, including in the neighbouring country of Pakistan.
It is the responsibility of every Indian citizen who values equality and justice to oppose this reprehensible proposal to change the character of Indian citizenship. In support of various protests taking place across India and outside, we, the concerned residents of Gujarat unequivocally opposed and condemn this proposed law.
Click here for signatories
First published in Counterview.
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