- The CAA offers fast track citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Jews facing persecution in India’s neighbourhood of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The only exception it makes is for Muslims.
- Coupled with the nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) that Shah keeps threatening is imminent, it takes India down a road of religion defining citizenship, which is at total variance with our secular Constitution.
A pyromaniac is defined by Merriam Webster as a person who has an uncontrollable urge to start a fire. This seems a remarkable apt marker of India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the pilot of the deeply flawed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), now an Act, and earlier the face of the repeal of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state’s special status.
The CAA offers fast track citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Jews facing persecution in India’s neighbourhood of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The only exception it makes is for Muslims. Coupled with the nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) that Shah keeps threatening is imminent, it takes India down a road of religion defining citizenship, which is at total variance with our secular Constitution.
Shah is defiant in the face of Assam and the north-east of India burning. The Army has been rushed in to Assam and protestors are dying.
The Modi government responded by cutting off the Internet while Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued appeals to Assam’s “brothers and sisters” -- you’ve guessed it on social media, where no one in Assam can see the appeal.
This is a repeat of the chilling Kashmir copybook where for more than four months now the Modi government has imposed a lockdown and cut off communication.
The New York Times has reported that India the world’s largest democracy was responsible for 67 per cent of the world’s internet shutdowns last year. With 134 incidents this year, India has had 89 Internet blackouts, some lasting months as in Kashmir.
So now the Army has been deployed in both the border states of Kashmir and Assam.
All this frantic action of setting state after state on fire while the Indian economy implodes and stagflation looms is puzzling.
The urgent requirement for the Modi government was to set the economy back on track. Instead it decided to essentially make India’s 200 million Muslims feel that they were second class citizens living in what was a Hindu Rashtra and not a secular democratic republic.
Consider the big takeaway from the second Modi government term. First triple talaq was criminalised (now banning the pernicious practice is an excellent move) but when no other community’s divorce is criminalised why single out Muslims?
Next was the assault on Kashmir’s special status and even taking away statehood as Kashmir was reduced to Union territory status by the Modi government.
The Babri Masjid judgment of the Supreme Court allowed a Ram temple to be built on the disputed site where Hindu extremist mobs had brought down the Babri Masjid.
A community under siege
If this was not enough for a community coping with lynching and under siege of the NRC coupled with the CAA, this has signaled the Modi government’s clear intent.
The RSS, which is the mothership of the BJP and the head of the Sangh parivar, has always had a view of India as a Hindu Rashtra and Modi and Shah are the spearhead of the most ideological government India has had.
But again the simple principle of if it ain’t broke don’t fix would apply. Why did the Modi government do it?
Well for starters for electoral traction in West Bengal which votes in 2021 and has 42 Lok Sabha seats. Shah is looking to unseat the Mamata Banerjee government and is hoping that the CAA would set his EVM’s ringing among the large population of refugee Hindus from Bangladesh.
Assam, where organised resistance is being seen, has 14 Lok Sabha seats and will also vote in 2021. But the CAA is meeting resistance from people who describe themselves as natives and fear being swamped by outsiders, whether Hindu or Muslim, who will take away Assam’s unique languages and features.
Clearly, Shah was unprepared for the anger of Assam.
West Bengal’s Banerjee, Punjab’s Amrinder Singh and Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayyan have already said they will not implement what they describe as the unconstitutional CAA in their states.
Read more from Swati Chaturvedi
- Tears and laughter have meaning only when shared. Kashmir can’t share anything now
- Maharashtra elections: The day democracy was stabbed in the back in India
- Amit Shah sounds the whistle – Muslims to be targeted again in India with another NRC
- Kashmir lockdown, arrest of activist, WhatsApp spying: Is India headed from democracy to police state?
India is a federal union of states and Shah and Modi are trying to impose a unitary status. Expect a full fight back.
So what next?
Since Parliament has passed the Bill, the CAA will now be challenged in the Supreme Court. Will the Supreme Court protect the idea of a secular democratic India with absolute equality between citizens of all faiths?
It must or the audacious experiment of the India project conjured up by giants like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel will dwarf itself in to a Hindu Rashtra.