A diminished idea of India

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019, by Parliament marks a turning point in the country’s history. If a Partition was imposed on it in 1947, it has now done it on itself. The CAB is a law that technically and legally only purports to give citizenship to those who have come fleeing neighbouring countries but whose effect, by its deliberate exclusion of some of these migrants on the basis of religion, is to reflect the same segregation on its citizens internally. Though no separate space and territory has been earmarked for Muslims, the Bill has sent out the message that they are lesser citizens, and the country is for Hindus only. It is a travesty of the Constitution and the ideals on which the nation was founded. It is surprising that Parliament acquiesced in passing this Bill. After the recasting and redefining of its citizenship on the basis of religion, the idea of India that emerges from it is a shrunken and narrower one, made in Hindutva chintan shibirs and on its training grounds.

Home Minister Amit Shah and other champions of the Bill resorted to a misrepresentation of history to defend the Bill. Shah said the Congress was responsible for Partition and that the Bill would not have been necessary but for that. This was deliberate distortion of history, coming from those whose ideological forefathers contributed nothing to the nation’s freedom struggle but everything to the divisive ideology and actions that led to Partition. This was clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The other statement that the Bill is only meant to protect the minorities coming from neighbouring countries is Orwellian speak. A legislation that had to be defended by such methods did not deserve to be passed by Parliament. There was no hiding of the BJP’s stripes and spots, but it is unfortunate that its allies and opportunistic friends like the JD(U), the Akali Dal, the BJD and the Telugu parties became parties to this exercise in prejudice and malice. It is not realised that when the law and the hordes finally come for them, there may not be anyone left to speak for them.

It is an unfair and discriminatory legislation and the only hope now is for the Supreme Court to strike it down as bad in law and unconstitutional. The court has in the past protected the Constitution and its values from grasping and marauding governments. Hopefully, it will see through the clutter and deception of this Bill to assert and affirm the secular core of the republic. The entire North-East, which will be directly and immediately affected by the Bill, has risen in protest against it, though the government tried to buy them off with some exceptions and concessions. It is for the entire country to resist the Bill, and to ensure that the secular core of the Constitution and the republic, founded on the equal protection and equality before the law of all within its territory, survives this assault on it.

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