CAB AND THE SECULAR PLURALISM OF INDIA IN QUESTION.

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Raesa Fatima

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The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has been passed on 10th December, 2019 in India which has raised several questions against the rhetoric of BJP government. This bill, in the first place, goes against the Indian Constitution’s preamble itself which declares that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic state. The bill which was initially presented in the Indian Parliament in 2016 though has been passed in December, 2019 proposes granting the Indian citizenship to the persecuted minorities namely Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis that are fleeing from three specific countries namely Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The word ‘persecuted’ does not set well as far as the question of Pakistan is concerned regarding the protection of rights of the people who belong to the religion Islam because the fundamental issue in CAB is that it does not mention Muslims in its clause, to get the citizenship under regular provisions, if they want to migrate to India for any reason.
Therefore, with the exclusion of Muslims in CAB, Indian government has aggravated the debate of violation of human rights against themselves, and more specifically the right to equality in article 14 of India, which is also a basic human right from the time of Magna Carta 1215 up till now, in the constitutions of nearly all the countries. Right to equality before law extends to all the humans regardless of caste, color, religion, and creed. In the wake of this bill, the inhumane act of Indian government will require Muslims to migrate to India and live there for 14 years in order to get the citizenship, meanwhile, for the people who belong to six religions mentioned in CAB will require to live in India for only 6 years in order to get qualified as the citizens of India. Similarly, another inhumane clause that has been mentioned in CAB is that the provisions of citizenship will not apply to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, therefore, this clause has triggered protest from NorthEast as they argue that CAB will promote illegal immigration and, hence, will be a threat to their culture.
USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), as its full form suggests, is a commission which works “to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress”. With respect to CAB, USCIRF stated that it is a sheer violence of human right and religious freedom should be considered as the fundamental right. Moreover, it said that religion should not be a condition or mandate for a particular class of people for approving citizenship.
Now moving towards the debate that why has India approved such a bill when there are many other issues to focus upon, and how is this bill dividing India is in question. First of all, CAB, which is against the rhetoric of secular pluralism mentioned in the preamble of Indian constitution, highlights that Indian government has played a trick to distract people’s attention from the real big issues which government has failed to resolve. For instance, the issues regarding unemployment, low GDP growth, rape cases etc. The Hindu-Muslim issue was resolved when the Supreme Court of India gave the judgement of Ram Mandir issue but BJP thought that if Hindu-Muslim issue gets resolved then the real issues will catch the attention of people, therefore, it aggravated another issue regarding Hindu-Muslim debate by passing CAB. With this move, BJP government intends to play divide and rule tactic by communalizing Hindus and Muslims. More importantly, BJP wants to increase its vote bank by getting the support of refugees and illegal migrants when they will be given voter ID cards after the grant of citizenship. BJP has copied the same tactic for which it used to blame Mamta Banerjee for inviting refugees from Bangladesh and giving them voter ID card. Also, by combining NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAB, Indian government wants to exercise staunch dictatorial authority. These are the actual reasons behind the multi-faceted move of passing CAB by BJP government.
The CAB will certainly tarnish the reputation of India on the International platforms. It might lose many of its international battles as it might not be regarded as the member of U.N. Human Rights Council. It will not anymore be called as a secular state. CAB also raises the question of the fate of atheists as they do not belong to any religion. What will be the provisions for them? Similarly, as the people of Assam are protesting against the higher possibility of illegal migrations, CAB becomes a threat to the national security of India. Terrorists could migrate illegally to India and ask for citizenship, hence, will become a threat to the India’s internal security. Resources will get exploited due to which food shortages and unemployment will certainly increase. Whereas, Indian army is busy repressing the voices of its own people in Assam rather than doing its own job on the borders. Hence, CAB is not a well-thought move of the Indian government. It raises many questions as uncertainties are prevailing among the Indian population and negative emotions are also developing among the people of different religions against each other. CAB certainly has various underlined message regarding non-Muslim refugees and illegal migrants that will cost BJP a lot than it can imagine as they will not be jailed or deported according to the new policy. It could effectively mean that Muslims who migrate into India illegally can be jailed and deported. It is a hidden message in CAB. It is a blatant discrimination in the Indian history regarding religion filter. CAB is also questioning the BJP rhetoric of “One Nation, One Law” as it comes juxtaposed with the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. Hence, CAB is something which will change the very basis of Indian Constitution not obviously in their good.

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