For the first time in recent years, BJP leaders and supporters have been forced to step down from their high pedestal. Those who were only used to deliver sermons and fling accusations have decided to go to people with questions and some answers.
For the first time, a government is going door to door to convince people regarding an Act it rammed through Parliament.
In the spirit of healthy traditions of argumentative India, let’s engage them with facts and rationale.
WHAT THE BJP IS SAYING
• ‘Since CAA has been passed by Parliament, any opposition to it is an insult to democracy and Parliament itself.’
No, it is not. PM Narendra Modi himself opposed the Land Acquisition Act passed by the Parliament during the UPA regime. He even brought an Ordinance to change it, reissued the Ordinance multiple times. Was he insulting the Parliament and Democracy by relentlessly speaking against the existing Act, even when Parliament refused to change it?
His government had passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC). Several lawyers and prominent members of legal fraternity opposed it. Later Supreme Court struck down NJAC, saying that the Act was unconstitutional. Were the lawyers and legal luminaries insulting Parliament when they opposed it?
Several Acts passed by the Parliament are opposed in every democracy. Even BJP speaks against so many existing Acts in its election Manifestoes. That promise to change an Act is essentially a disagreement with the existing law. Are the promises made in BJP manifestoes, for change in existing laws, insult to democracy?
Obviously, it is not. People can oppose or support existing laws, fresh laws, and even prospective laws. That’s what democracy is about.
• Why can’t persecuted Hindus and other minorities get citizenship in India?
Persecuted Hindus and other minorities always had the option of applying for citizenship in India. It was always within the powers of the Union Government to either grant them citizenship or deny them.
In fact, during the Modi regime itself, 3914 people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh were given citizenship in the last six years. This included 2,830 people from Pakistan, 912 from Afghanistan and 172 from Bangladesh. An overwhelming majority of these were non-Muslims.
Even in the past, 4.61 lakh Tamils and 2 lakh Burmese were granted Indian citizenship in the 60s and 70s. Indian origin people from Uganda, Kenya, etc. faced persecution and fled from those countries. They were granted Indian Citizenship.
So, there was never any issue with giving citizenship to the persecuted people of Indian origin, including Hindus and Muslims.
• Since Muslims are in a majority in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, they are not persecuted there and there is no reason for them to seek citizenship in India.
In practice, Modi government itself has not followed its own public pronouncements that Muslims can’t be persecuted in Af-Pak-Bangladesh. It has granted citizenship to Adnan Sami. Several hundred other Muslims have been given citizenship by Modi government in the past six years. Moreover, several Muslim sects like Ahmaddiyas, Shias, and Hazaras, etc. do complain of being persecuted in their own countries. Finally, if the majority community cannot be persecuted, why does the BJP say that Hindus in India face an existential threat! (Hindu Khatre Me Hain?)
• CAA does not affect any Indian citizen or any Indian Muslim; so why the opposition to it ?
The opposition to CAA is not because it doesn’t affect Indian Muslims. It is because of the unsaid agenda associated with it.
There was no need for an amendment, because the Government of India had the powers to grant citizenship to Indian origin people. Lakhs have been granted citizenship in the past. If the concern was to fast track the pending cases of people who came before 2014, a simple amendment lowering the residency period from 11 years to 5 years would have been sufficient. It wouldn’t have drawn any controversy.
But the BJP has a twin agenda.
One, it wanted to strike on the basic structure of our Constitution, where no discrimination is made on the basis of religion, or any other criteria. Once the logic of discriminatory rights based on religion is accepted even for non-Indians or prospective Indians, then in future it opens up the possibility of other changes in the law and the Constitution. There is now a precedent for more changes on basis of religion, or even on the basis of caste, creed, language and gender.
Second, the BJP is stuck in a difficult situation in Assam. It carried out NRC hoping that it would go against Muslims, many of whom it believed were illegal migrants. But once the NRC register was published, 19 lakh people failed to qualify as citizens. Of these, 12 lakhs were found to be actually Hindus and about seven lakhs were Muslims and other non-Hindus.
It is actually quite embarrassing for BJP, which prides itself as a Hindu nationalist party, to snatch the citizenship of 12 lakh Hindus! Also, it is in no position to cancel Assam NRC.
Therefore, Modi government spun an ingenious plan. It is an open secret that through CAA, the government wants to regularise the citizenship of over 12 lakh Hindus in Assam, who failed the citizenship test.
These are all the people who have settled before 2014, that is before Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. The game plan could be that once Hindus and other non-Muslims get back their citizenship, the majority will be satisfied. On the other hand, Muslim citizens who have failed to pass the citizenship test can go to detention centres or may live as disenfranchised and disempowered people.
The government’s intentions are suspect because it has so far refused to state in categorical terms that CAA won’t be used to benefit non-Muslim victims of Assam NRC.
The government has not given any assurance that in future case of NRC, too, the CAA provisions will not be used to restore the citizenship of such non-Muslim citizens, who would fail the citizenship test.
• CAA is meant to grant citizenship and not to take away citizenship. Lies are being spread by the opposition
Yes, CAA is meant to grant citizenship and not take it. But if its benefits are extended to NRC, then all those non-Muslims who fail citizenship test will get citizenship. But the Muslims who will fail the test will be left without citizenship! The government has never officially said that CAA will never be extended to NRC. It is only saying that there will not be NRC, as of now.
• CAA has nothing to do with NRC
The chronology of CAA and NRC was explained not by the opposition, but by the Home Minister and BJP President Amit Shah himself. Even today, he has not denied the chronology, but obfuscates the issue by merely saying that NRC is not happening for the time being. That’s merely a tactical response to wriggle out of pressure mounted by the grounds swell of protests.
• The PM has stated that no discussion has taken place on NRC in the Government.
This is a completely false assertion. The President of India, during his Address to the Joint Session of the Parliament on June 20, 2019, clearly mentioned that the Government wanted to bring NRC soon.
The President’s Address is an official document that lists out the intentions of the government for the year to come. It is officially discussed and adopted by the Cabinet. Therefore, the Modi Cabinet did discuss the intention of having NRC within a year.
If the Prime Minister still claims that it was not discussed, then he must take action against the Cabinet Sectetary and sack him for misleading the President of India and the Parliament and for inserting an unauthorised declaration in the Address.
• A country-wide NRC has not been notified and hence fears are misplaced. NPR has nothing to do with NRC
The NRC is governed by Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The first step in it is to prepare a National Population Register, which is as per the Rule 3(4). This NPR can be the primary database for NRC. Rule 3(5) clearly says that the Local Register of Indian Citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the Population Register.
Rule 4 that deals with the process of NRC further links NPR and NRC together. The Local Register of Indian Citizens shall be scrutinised for compilation into a NRC.
Therefore, the government is speaking selective truth. PM has said that there is no decision on NRC yet. The government has not said that there will not be an NRC, it has not said that NPR data won’t be verified and compiled into Local Population Register.
It is merely buying time because once the enumeration is done through NPR process, only verification and scrunity are required to convert it into NRC.