Union Home Minister Amit Shah stood up on the floor of the Lok Sabha on December 10 and declared that his party BJP was forced to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB) because “Partition was on the basis of religion”. Shah may or may not be consciously invoking Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s logic for dividing India in 1947 as the justification for the Bill he introduced. But he was surely pushing India into another Partition-like divide because he very knowingly turned the basis of Indian citizenship faith-centric with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament.
The BJP has thus laid the foundation of the Hindu Rashtra of RSS dreams which, much before Independence, had conceived an idea of an India where its Muslim citizenry would have to live with the status of second-class citizen.
This is something that, according to Shah himself, Islamic countries like Pakistan had done to their Hindu and other minorities. So, he put India at par with Pakistan where faith determines its citizens’ rights, not their birth.
But that is how Indian Constitution had not laid the foundation of modern India despite suffering the hell of Partition. Article 14 of Indian constitution clearly declares: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
That is the reason that as soon as the Lok Sabha passed the Bill, hell broke loose in the country. Constitution experts, politicians and civil society members declared the Act unconstitutional. Justice (retd) Madan B. Lokur told National Herald: “It violates Article 14 of the Constitution”. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi declared it as “an attack on the Constitution”.
And civil rights activist Harsh Mander called it an offence to “our secular values”.
Amit Shah denied all such charges. But every Indian citizen will have to produce documents before NRC courts that he was an Indian citizen before 1951. And, his documents will be judged on the basis of faith. If his parents were/are Hindu, Sikh, Budhist or Jain, he will be entitled to the citizenship of India even if they had migrated from neighbouring Muslim countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. But only if he is Muslim, or a Tibetan from Chinese Tibet or a Gorkha from Nepal and fails to prove or produce documents that his parents were not born here, he will be stripped of citizenship. He will become a stateless person without any rights. It clearly means a huge chunk of Indian population now risk losing their citizenship.
They will of course have second-class status. It will, in every sense, give supremacy to the overwhelming majority of Hindus over others in India. In other words, it will be Narendra Modi and Mohan Bhagwat’s New India or Hindu Rashtra with Hindu supremacy over others.
The BJP has been working on this since Narendra Modi returned to power in 2019 with thumping majority in the Lok Sabha.
Now, the BJP was no longer dependent on allies to fulfil its core agenda based on Hindutva principles. Amit Shah has also found a route to manipulate a majority in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP is still in a minority. The ‘Chanakya’ of BJP is said to have deployed saam, daam, dand, bhed tactics to line up MPs or make them abstain from Rajya Sabha at the time of voting. Except for the uniform personal law, the BJP has in its first six months of second tenure already got rid of Triple Talaq, abrogated Article 370, pushed Muslims to a corner and has given India the shape of a Hindu nation.
But why is the BJP in a rush to rake up issues that are pushing India into another Partition-like situation. “Because the BJP thrives on divisive politics,” points out CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. And, Yechury is not off the mark. Look at Narendra Modi’s political graph and you see that Modi’s political rise is courtesy divisive politics.
Modi fashioned himself into a Hindu Hirday Samrat, post the 2002 Gujarat riots wherein he successfully demonised Gujarati Muslims as Hindu’s enemies and won as many as three state elections. Modi in 2014 turned to the national scene where he projected himself as the leader of the masses who could deliver quick development packaged with the image of a ‘Muslim fixer’. Balakot earned him the second-term victory as Prime Minister wherein he succeeded to again ‘fix’ Muslim Pakistan.
Now, both Modi and the BJP are looking for a third term. Both need a fresh divisive agenda that could propel them to power again. Modi has them aplenty. He has ‘conquered’ Muslim Kashmir by stripping their special status, snatched from Muslims their right to Triple Talaq through Muslim Personal Law, managed to get the Ram Temple passed through the judicial process and now has virtually subjugated Indian Muslims with CAB.
In fact, CAB is the lynchpin of the BJP’s game plan for winning the next round of elections because the NRC process could generate Hindu-Muslim divide at the very mohalla and basti-levels both in cities as well as villages. It has all the potential of once again reestablishing Narendra Modi as the Hindu Hirday Samrat in major parts of India. CAB seems to be the jewel of the BJP’s election plan for 2024 and many Assembly elections in between.
So far so good for the BJP. But CAB is neither in national interest nor in BJP’s interest in the long run. The first casualty of this hyper divisive game could be Narendra Modi himself who has Amit Shah waiting in the wings as the emerging Hindu Hriday Samrat. Be it Triple Talaq, abrogation of Article 370 and now CAB, Amit Shah not just piloted these Bills but took the credit for all these transformative laws.
Shah now has better credentials than Modi as a Hindu leader who has finally transformed India into a Hindu Rashtra. Who knows? May be Shah will pip Modi to the post of the Prime Minister in the next round as a better Hindu leader. “Shah is surely a risk for Modi now,” claims a senior journalist who has been covering the BJP for decades.
CAB has pushed the anti-BJP opposition parties closer. Right from Sonia Gandhi to Sharad Pawar to Mamata Banerjee to Sitaram Yechury, all opposition stalwarts are not just opposing CAB. They are now also saying that it is time for the opposition to close ranks. Says Sharad Pawar: “I am ready to join any opposition front opposing the BJP.”
CAB will surely give a push to an opposition front against the BJP. Secondly, regional allies of the BJP and some regional parties which even supported the CAB in Parliament are uncomfortable with the new citizen law. There seems to be a divide within the JD(U) on this issue. Akali Dal too is under pressure from its core Sikh constituency to step back from the BJP and TRS leader KC Rao has already distanced himself from CAB while his party supported the BJP on Article 370 and other issues inside Parliament. So, the BJP may lose its regional allies in the long run if not now.
Almost the entire East and Northeastern India is already up in arms against CAB. Mamata has declared a war against the new citizenship laws and already won the by-polls in Bengal. Assam and northeastern states are on the streets furiously opposing the law. The BJP’s Assam ally, AGP, has been split down the middle with its student wing hitting the street against CAB. Nationally speaking, the Bill has seeds of ethnically dividing the country which may have serious long-term repercussions. Both the northeastern, eastern and southern regions have serious reservations about such a law that gives supremacy to the Centre over the states on a sensitive issue like citizenship.
“The BJP may not realise the threat it has posed to national integration now. It will soon see a disturbed Northeast on this issue,” points out a Tripura MP. Reports have come in that Army has been deployed in Tripura and that thousands of paramilitary jawans are being flown into Assam from Kashmir.
Well, Amit Shah may have managed to push new citizenship laws through Parliament, bringing India closer to the RSS dream of a Hindu Rashtra. But the Modi-Shah team has opened up a pandora’s box. What course Indian politics will take from now is anyone’s guess at this stage. But CAB has surely pushed India into a dangerous political course from which a course correction will be an uphill task.