Every coin has two sides and so does the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 and National Register of Citizens. With the utter rage created amongst the people of India due to social influence and mass protest going on in the country, the other side of CAA and NRC might be getting glossed over. Here’s a retrospective look at the CAA & NRC proceedings with another side in addendum.
During the proceedings in the Parliament, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Amit Shah, said in his introductory speech for Citizenship Amendment Bill (now an Act) on 11th December, 2019 that ‘persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will get citizenship in India under this Act.’ These words surely show concern about humanity, however the amendment goes without the word ‘persecuted’. Moreover, had the persecution been ceased after 31st December 2014 in the aforesaid three countries? This criteria is violation of Article 14 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights as persecution is not done date-wise. On 10th January 2020, CAA has come into force as per the notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs. This means those non-Muslims in Assam who were stripped down from their citizenship after the Assam-NRC would acquire back their status.
Furthermore, not only is there a Citizenship Amendment Act but also a proposed nation-wide NRC, i.e., National Register of Citizens. On 20th June 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind addressed both NRC and CAA in a joint sitting of both the houses of Parliament. In NRC, if the documents (unspecified as of yet) of a current Indian citizen falls short then they will be termed as illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion, caste, creed, age, race, etc. As CAA comes with pan-India NRC, likewise citizens/illegal immigrants will be queued to get themselves registered and out of the queue there will be many who will be termed as ‘illegal’. You would ask why, does CAA not provide them citizenship? The answer to that is no, it does not! To get citizenship under CAA, one needs to prove that he/she does not belong to India and rather an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.
National Register of Citizens and Citizenship Amendment Act aren’t the only two knots on this string, there is another knot that has commenced its work in the country, i.e., the National Population Register (NPR). Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on 22nd December 2019 in his rally that there has been no discussion on a nation-wide NRC except of Assam. Although, NPR has a link with nation-wide NRC as per the questions answered (Starred – Q. No. 229: Integrating Aadhar Card Project with NPR of 23rd July 2014 and Q. No. 304: Linking NPR with Right to Vote of 30th July 2014; Unstarred – Q. No. 305: National Identity Card for Each Citizen of 9th July 2014, Q. No. 1586: Present Status of NPR of 23rd July 2014, Q. No. 378: Identifying Citizens while preparing NPR of 26th November 2014, Q. No. 1943: National Identity Card of 13th May, 2015 and, Q. No. 4583: Progress of NPR of 8th May 2013) by the Ministry of Home Affairs at Rajya Sabha website. However, there is Unstarred Q. No. 4583: Progress of NPR of 8th May 2013 which carries the same link. There is a statement of former Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh of 18th December 2003 in Parliament proceedings which is as follows – “I would like to point out that with regard to the treatment of refugees after the Partition of our country, the minorities in countries like Bangladesh, have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation that if circumstances force people, these unfortunate people, to seek refuge in our country, our approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal. I sincerely hope that the hon. Deputy Prime Minister (the then Shri L.K. Advani) will bear this in mind in charting out the future course of action with regard to the Citizenship Act.” The BJP-led government claims it to be an idea of previous Congress government. There is no mention of the word ‘refugee’ in the Act as such BJP is claiming on the basis of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s aforementioned statement neither a religious identity was attached to it.
In order to defy these three, protests are happening throughout the nation to convey to the government that these must be withdrawn which are unconstitutional and inhuman as they are a direct violation of Preamble of the Indian Constitution and Article 15 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen has told reporters in Bengaluru at the Infosys Science Foundation’s Infosys Prize 2019 that one cannot have certain type of fundamental human rights linking citizenship with religious differences. NRC proved to be a failure in the state of Assam as many illegal migrants were categorized as citizens due to the documents they possessed, through unfair means, and many citizens were categorized as illegal migrants due to lack of documents. Moreover, the Indian Economy is in a constant decline with the GDP falling from 5% in Q1 to 4.5% in Q2 of 2019-2020. The unemployment rate is the highest in at least forty-five years. There is also a steep decline in foreign funds in Telecom, Pharmaceuticals and, Power in 2018-2019, and $3 Billion is the total economic cost of net bans (2012-2017, all states). The implementation of these laws will further cost crores and crores of rupees.
As the protests go on throughout the country, there are bound to be supporters of these Acts and the Government. Those who are in favour of these laws are either not fully aware of these laws or are supporting to save their interests. Police invest their time to disperse these protests and to stop them from happening, willingly or not, only to save their own livelihood. One point of support is also seen from this side which says (repealing Article 14 of the Constitution of India from their minds) the Act as constitutional because the Constitution of India applies only on existing Indian citizens.
After what these CAA-defenders have tried is definitely not what state of Kerala has done. On 14th January 2020, Kerala becomes the first state to challenge CAA in Supreme Court under Article 131 and its petition suggestive of violation of Articles 14, 21 and 25 of the Constitution of India by the Act. On 22nd January 2020, the Supreme Court is going to hear all the petitions. Moreover, the Punjab government passed an Anti-CAA Resolution ensuing one by Kerala. With continually increasing Nation wide protests and stark opposition in political and popular front. Will this be CAA’s endgame? Let’s see.
Nabiha Fatima, B. Com. (Hons.), Jamia Millia Islamia