Shouldn’t The Citizenship Amendment Bill Include All Religions?

By Himanshi Parihar:

Citizenship Amendment Bill proposes to selectively relax citizenship rules for migrants of six minority religions – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Originally 12 years, the Bill will grant them citizenship in 6 years. This arrangement has become the bone of contention for the north-eastern states.

Source: Getty Images

The primary reason why Tripura, Manipur, and Meghalaya are not backing the Bill is that they are concerned it will encourage illegal immigration from Bangladesh and threaten the demography, cultural and linguistic rights of the indigenous minorities.

In Mizoram, people fear that Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladesh will take advantage of this amendment, while the ones in Arunachal Pradesh fear that Chakmas and Tibetans will do the same. Nagaland wants the Bill to be reviewed. To enter these 3 states, Indians need the Inner Line Permit (ILP), so the effect of the amendment might not be felt as much there.

Protests have been most rampant in Assam. The Assamese feel that the Bill violates the 1985 Assam Accord which aimed to curb illegal Bangladeshi migration, irrespective of the immigrant’s religion.

The cut-off date of the Bill is 31 December 2014, so the protesters feel that it breaches the cut-off date of both National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Assam Accord, which is March 24, 1971.

Government’s Justification:

As per the ruling party BJP, new citizens will be accommodated all over India and not just in the North-East, so the latter need not worry. Saying that the amendment encourages migration is technically wrong, because its cut-off date is December 31, 2014, and not a day beyond that. It sees this amendment as reparation of partition to the separated Hindus.

Fault Lines In The Bill:

The very nature of the Bill violates the Citizenship Act 1955, under which people of undivided India cannot acquire citizenship in India.

Secularism: Article 14 of the Indian Constitution clearly states that people cannot be discriminated on the grounds of religion. The Bill on the other hand clearly discriminates on religious grounds. It leaves behind Muslims immigrants. One such act can damage the ailing secular ethos of the nation.

Remember The Rohingyas?

India has a centuries-old tradition of giving shelter to refugees. Rohingyas are believed to be the world’s most prosecuted people, yet the Indian government deported them, citing concerns of internal security and lack of space and funds to accommodate them. Barely a year later, we now have new gold mines to do the same for non-Muslim minorities?

NEW DELHI, INDIA SEPTEMBER 21: Rohingya Muslim refugees along with Indian supporters hold placards against human rights violations in Myanmar during a protest in New Delhi. (Photo by Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images)

Are Muslims not prosecuted?

The 6 minorities stated in the Amendment Bill are not the only prosecuted ones in the three countries. Followers of Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, Hazaras in Afganistan, and Shia sect and Sufism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are prosecuted by Sunni extremists. Incidentally, all the sects mentioned are branches of Islam.

What About China, Myanmar, And Sri Lanka?

Our legislators wittily left these countries as Muslims are not in their best conditions there, the Uyghur Muslims of China and the Rohingyas of Myanmar for instance. The condition of Tibetans in China and that of Tamilians in Sri Lanka is not great either.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, if passed, may or may not have the same result as anticipated by the protesters. But the very fact that one such amendment was proposed, on religious grounds, is appalling. BJP’s election manifesto in 2014 was to make India the home of persecuted Hindus around the world. Seems like it wanted to make India what Israel is for Jews.

And if the ruling regime wanted to act as a human rights champion, shouldn’t it have included all the religions instead of including just non-Muslims?

A version of this post was first published here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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