The talking point of the nation is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB) which aims at reducing naturalization period from 11 years to 5 years for the persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who seek refuge in India. A lot of erroneous allegations and fear mongering are doing rounds to create confusion and instigate the crowds.
A factchecker and myth buster for CAB is the need of the hour.
Claim- Legally, it violates Article 14 which talks of equality
- It is true that Article 14 establishes the concept of Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Law, thus ensuring no one is discriminated on basis of religion. But there is an exception
- Article 14 makes provision for “reasonable classification” wherein the principle of equality is relaxed. Thus, the principle of affirmative action or positive discrimination is possible if the criteria for classification is reasonable
- All our policies for caste-based reservations, special rights to minorities in India are possible due to this reasonable classification
- Even the Supreme Court has underlined this concept. In the case of Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Justice S R Tendolkar, the Court said “It is now well established that while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation”
- It put forth the concept of “intelligible differentia” which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group, and one which has a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question.
- Moreover, In the case of Parisons Agrotech (P) Ltd. v. Union of India, the Apex Court held that the equality clause does not forbid geographical classification, provided the difference between the geographical units has a reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved.
- Similarly, the persecuted minorities from these three nations form a reasonable classification, since all have faced systematic attacks, persecution and communal violence due to their presence in Islamic nations.
Claim- CAB is anti-Muslim/ It discriminates against Muslims
- Indian Muslims are in no way affected by this amendment. They are and will continue to enjoy all the benefits as legitimate Indian citizens. The bill deals with refugees who are foreign citizens.
- India does accept refugees who are Muslim. The process takes place under other acts like Foreigners Act, 1946 and the appropriate bodies are given powers to decide on the status of granting citizenship.
- India has also declared that any refugee entering India post 2015 shall be examined by the above mentioned acts irrespective of their religion
- A broader question to the political parties raking up this issue is- If you are pro-minority in India and that you believe in protection of minorities within India, then why is it that you oppose persecuted minorities from the neighborhood?
Claim- Muslims are also persecuted, and then why not allow Ahmediyas and Shias?
- There is a fundamental difference between persecuted religious minorities and ethnic violence
- Ahmediyas and Shias are victims of sectarian and ethnic violence which has nothing to do with religious persecution. Thus, they can’t be compared to persecuted religious minorities like Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
- Moreover, from a legal point of view, if we include cases of ethnic violence along with religious persecution, it cannot be called as “reasonable classification” and it will violate Article 14
Claim- Even the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) believes the bill is wrong
- The Ministry of External Affairs has clearly stated that such comments from USCIRF is neither accurate nor warranted, given that its past record is filled with comments on India’s religious freedom
- Moreover, it is intriguing that the topic under discussion- persecution of religious minorities in neighboring nations- has never attracted such grave “concern” from USCIRF nor has it issued any sensational statements calling for sanctions on a nation’s home minister.
- India and Indians shouldn’t consider the word of such bodies as gospel truth
Claim- Northeast India stands to suffer due to influx of non-local refugees
- The government has been sensitive to the needs of the Northeast people.
- CAB has a specific provision which excludes autonomous tribal regions under the Sixth Schedule. This means the areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram would be excluded
- Also, states with an Inner Line Permit are excluded. Inner Line Permit is required to entire states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. Thus, persecuted refugees won’t be settled here.
- Moreover, Article 371 which provides special rights to Northeastern states will not be affected. The rights include usage of customary laws, land rights, rights of local bodies, local representation, etc.
Claim- Parliament doesn't have powers to decide on the issue of citizenship
- The erroneous assumption is that it is the Constitution that decides on citizenship and the Parliament has no powers on the issue. Nothing can be far from reality.
- Article 11 of the Constitution says “Parliament to regulate the right of citizenship by law. Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Part shall derogate from the power of Parliament to make any provision with respect to the acquisition and termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to citizenship”
- Even B.R. Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India had said in a speech in Constituent Assembly that “It is not the object of this particular Article (Article 5, now Article 11) to lay down a permanent law of citizenship for the country. The business of laying down permanent law of citizenship has been left to the Parliament”
- Let us think logically. Citizenship is a very dynamic issue. Changing nature of the world requires a dynamic citizenship policy. Can a Constitution framed in 1949 have that much foresight to deal with issues of 21st century? Thus, the power is left to the Parliament since it is easy to introduce amendments with a simple majority
Claim- CAB is furthering the Two Nation Theory that divided India
- Far from furthering the Two Nation Theory, CAB protects the victims of the Two Nation Theory
- The religious minorities were left behind in declared Islamic nations with no where to go. They are the real victims of the hatred caused by Two Nation Theory
- It was the Congress that accepted Partition and by implication, the Two Nation Theory which created such cruel conditions for religious minorities.
- On the contrary, the Narendra Modi government is functioning on Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas Sabka Vishwas. It aims to take the Indian Muslims along with all others.
Claim- What happens to other refugees like Sri Lankan Tamils and Tibetans
- The government is clear that all other refugees would be dealt with under existing laws like Foreigners Act 1946 and the established process would be followed.
- CAB specifically focus on persecuted religious minorities. It doesn’t mean other class of refugees would be ignored.
Claim- Then why not apply the same principles to Rohingyas
- There are fundamental differences between Rohingyas and other refugees
- CAB is specifically for three nations- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan- where the minorities bore the brunt of partition and hence are persecuted. Rohingyas don’t fall in this category
- Also, there are conclusive reports that Rohingyas are a threat to national security of India. Rohingyas have contacts with terrorist organizations like ISIS and LeT. How will India accept people who indulge in anti-India activity?
- Not just India, PM of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is on record calling Rohingyas as a threat to national security.
Correcting a Historical Injustice
- In a broader perspective, Partition caused about one crore people to cross over the boundaries and take refuge as paupers. The people who chose to live in then Pakistan found themselves in an Islamic nation governed by religious laws
- The amount of persecution can be gauged from the following points
- Farahnaz Ispahani in her article Cleansing Pakistan of its Minorites claims that “at the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent.”
- In a speech, Bangladeshi researcher Abdul Barakat claimed that “on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually. He says there will be no Hindus left within Bangladesh within next 30 years.”
- This is in addition to the frequent news of Hindu girls being abducted and forcibly converted in Pakistan becomes a frequent headline
- It’s not that we became aware of this today. Back in 1950s, Bengali Dalit leader Jogendranath Mandal, who was a minister in East Pakistan, had to flee to India on account of persecution of Hindus. Imagine the plight of common Hindus if a minister was not feeling safe in East Pakistan!
- It was expected that India and the newly formed nations would protect their minorities. While India stands by its minorities, others didn’t.
- It was Congress leader and PM Jawaharlal Nehru who signed the Nehru-Liaqat Pact to ensure minorities are protected in Pakistan. When that hasn’t happened, shouldn’t the Congress itself agree that since minorities are not safe, India should fulfill its role as a protector and truly implement the Nehru-Liaqat Pact?