A Constitutional mandate

by January 28, 2020 0 comments

Those individuals/leaders, who stand opposed to the CAA, must show respect to the Constitution, which empowers Parliament to make laws regarding citizenship

Continued opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which was passed by Parliament last month, and to the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR) by several State Governments, who stand opposed to the ruling dispensation, and their threatening postures towards the Union Government do not augur well either for the Republic or our Constitutional well-being.

The CAA, which has now become the law of the land, has amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 to provide succour to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who because of religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, crossed over to India before December 31, 2014, and are living here without any legal status. These nations are Islamic States, meaning Islam is the State religion over there.

Thus, automatically, unlike in India, adherents of all religions other than Islam are second or third-class citizens. Therefore, all non-Muslims are Constitutionally inferior and this has conditioned the majority to ill-treat the religious minorities in these nations. Ever since Partition, the Hindus and other minorities have been subjected to all forms of harassment and cruelty in these nations, forcing them to either convert to Islam or flee.

As a result, the population of Hindus in undivided Pakistan, which was around 24 per cent in the mid-1940s, has crashed to just 1.70 per cent. Similarly, in Bangladesh, which was earlier East Pakistan, the Hindu population has crashed from 30 per cent to about seven per cent. This should also answer the question as to why Muslims have been left out of the list of persecuted minorities under the CAA. First, they are not “minorities” and second, it is laughable to say that Muslims are “persecuted” by an Islamic State. The CAA seeks to offer some help to these subjugated minorities and to only those who entered India before the cut off date. In other words, this is not an open-ended scheme to allow for future migrants from these nations. Nor does it have anything to do with the citizens of India, whether Hindu or Muslim.

Given this reality, the attempt made by the Communists, the Congress and other parties opposed to the BJP, to spread the word that the CAA is against the Muslim citizens of India is blatantly false. This Act seeks to provide succour to persecuted religious minorities in Islamic States and it is also in line with the Bharatiya dharma and Constitutional dharma as well, to reach out to them. Those opposing this are abetting the non-secular, non-democratic behaviour of the citizens of Islamic nations across India’s border and will thereby lose the moral right to talk about these values in the country. The Communists and the Congress are also spreading canards about the NPR, the compilation of which is critical for policy formulation. Both parties were roundly rejected in the last parliamentary election in May 2019. In fact, although the Communists hog 30 to 40 per cent of the airtime on television debates, public support for such parties has fallen dramatically. In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the two main Communist parties had a combined vote share of 7.07 per cent. In 2014, this was down to 4.07 per cent and in 2019, it crashed to 2.36 per cent.

So, it appears that the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is their last bastion and with the support of the Congress, the two parties seek to avenge the electoral humiliation they suffered by whipping up passions against the Government that received overwhelming public support.

Meanwhile, in a resolution, the Kerala Assembly has said that the CAA passed by Parliament has created apprehensions in various sections of society. This was followed by the Punjab Assembly, which in its resolution stated that the CAA had caused widespread anguish and social unrest in the country. It further said that “the ideology behind the CAA is inherently discriminatory and is as far away as it can be from being a humanitarian measure.” The Rajasthan Assembly is the latest one to demand repeal of the CAA. These resolutions are not unconstitutional but unprecedented and are certain to pose a threat to the federal structure.

Even more worrying is that the Punjab Assembly’s resolution refers to “apprehensions” that the NPR is a prelude to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and that it is “designed to deprive a section of people from citizenship of India.” It goes on to say that because of these apprehensions, the Union Government should amend the forms and documentation associated with the NPR.

However, Assemblies in Kerala, Punjab or Rajasthan never shed tears for persecuted religious minorities in theocratic States such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Further, all lectures on secularism are to be directed towards the secular, democratic citizens of India and the Government elected by them.

Three other developments in recent weeks are extremely worrying. One, several Chief Ministers have declared that they will not implement the CAA in their States. Two, the disgraceful decision to bring kids to protest sites and to get them to raise foul, abusive slogans against a duly elected Prime Minister. And three, telling the Muslims not to respond to queries from enumerators who are tasked to prepare the NPR.

Every Chief Minister and politician in the country, who has declared that CAA will not be implemented in his/her State, must immediately withdraw their statement because it will amount to challenging the supremacy of the Constitution. Parliament is empowered to make laws regarding citizenship, naturalisation of aliens under item 17 in the Union List and no State or individual has the right to say that the law made by it will not be implemented. If Chief Ministers persist with this line, it will lead to a Constitutional breakdown and the consequences will be terrible because the overwhelming majority in this country swears by the Constitution and will not allow a few malcontents in politics to disturb its rhythm and balance.

Second, the decision by protesters to bring infants to protest sites and to get them to hurl abuses at the Prime Minister is another act of brinkmanship which no reasonable person will support. Last, asking the Muslims to boycott the NPR is equally risky because any attempt to stymie the working of a duly elected Government at the federal level will have its own implications.

Those, who are encouraging such tendencies, are treading a dangerous path. It is indeed unfortunate that one has to make such a gloomy prognosis about what lies ahead around the time when the nation just celebrated its 71st Republic Day. Everybody  has to be alert to ensure that the Constitution and the democratic way of life remain undisturbed.

(Writer: A Surya Prakash; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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