I woke up to the distressing pictures of alleged police brutality on students at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. The claims of Delhi police of using minimal force to control a violent mob falls flat on its face when juxtaposed with numerous narrated tales of police brutality. While it’s no one’s case that the protesters have an right to indulge in vandalism and arson while airing their grievances over a controversial Act; the unbridled and, what many say, disproportionate use of force over university students on campus needs to be condoned in strictest terms.
What is CAA and what is its stated objective ? The Citizenship Amendment Act promises Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities belonging to certain denomination in India’s immediate neighbourhood of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The government has justified the Act on grounds of the failure of various regimes in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to protect the religious minorities. The proof, the government says, can be seen in their declining demographic number over the decades. Given that Indian civilisation has believed in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam; the Act with its lofty objective should certainly not ring any alarm bells.
Why then the furore and opposition over CAA given its innocuous aim ? The opponents of the Act scoff at the exclusionary nature of the Act. Why geographically restrict the coverage to select countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh ? What about SriLanka with a long history of civil war and numerous tales of religious persecution by the Buddhist majority country ? What about Rohingyas in Myanamar who have been made to forcefully leave the country ? These are some of the principled oppositions to the passed Act.
Further, the move to specifically exclude practitioners of Islam from the ambit of the Act has ruffled many features within India. There has been documented evidence of persecution of Shias, Ahmadias in Pakistan. The miseries inflicted on atheist Bangladeshi bloggers is not unknown. SriLankan Muslims have numerous account of getting caught up in the cross fire at the fag end of civil war between Government forces and LTTE. The Act, in its present form, turns a blind eye towards this. Given that India is a secular state and secularism has been enshrined as a basic structure of the constitution, the detractors of the Act certainly have a point in being apprehensive of the Act.
The opposition to CAA in India’s North-Eastern states of Assam and Tripura stems for a different reason altogether. They say that the Act would legitimize the presence of illegal migrants and would put their cultural identity in great peril. They believe that their states have reached their carrying capacity for migrants and the onus of resettling the newly forged citizens shouldn’t be thrust upon them. The very least they demand is some sort of equitable distribution of new citizens throughout the country. To me, their concerns seem valid keeping in mind the Centre’s decision to give ILP status to Meghalaya after protests against CAA gathered steam in the state.
There are many who allude to the legitimacy of the Act considering that the Act has been passed by the parliament and assented to by Hon’ble President of India. Citizenship is on the Central list under Article 246 of the Indian constitution. The states are under constitutional obligation to implement the Act, as long as the CAA can hold its own against scores of petition lying in Hon’ble Supreme Court challenging its constitutional validity. Failure to do so may lead to application of Article 356 against the state on grounds of failure of constitutional machinery. The constitution position is crystal clear. Why should someone in their right mind protest ?
Dissent in democracy is nothing to be scornful of. It deepens the roots of democracy, encourages fruitful discussion and exchanges and allows people to understand each other’s point of view. A civilized discourse on the way ahead towards the implementation of the Act, shunning all violence by the concerned actors seems to be the need of the hour.