The Citizenship Act of 1955 provided for the acquisition and the determination of Indian citizenship. In 2016, the Citizenship Amendment Bill proposed in the Lok Sabha modified the 1955 Act, to make illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains Parsi, and Christians qualify for citizenship, excluding the people from the Muslim community.
It is important to understand the problems with the NRC (National Register of Citizens) and the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) together. The reason for NRC is to determine who is an Indian and who is not. In Assam, the same thing was done but it was a failed experiment.
The Assam experiment has shown that it’s extremely difficult to prove citizenship because not all people have access to the necessary documents. The documents might have been misplaced, the names might have been mispronounced or misspelt, leaving the people to suffer.
Approximately, 1. 9 million people have been declared illegal immigrants, in Assam; and it has been proposed that they should be sent to detention camps. Hence, one can imagine the magnitude of the problem. We are a population of 1.25 billion, who are now being told to produce documents.
In a country where an imminent number of people are illiterate, people don’t have these documents. Some people are constantly moving, so where are they going to produce those documents from? One can’t come up with these papers immediately, and this is where the problem lies.
I feel that the Citizenship Act has been amended keeping the above in mind, which is part of the agenda of the Hindu right-wing forces in the country. Citizenship is a universal category; it has never had any caste or religion or any other markers attached to it.
For the first time, we have an articulation of religion with citizenship and thus, it is important to keep this in mind, because the non-Muslims have been exempted. Citizenship is not being offered to Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. This is an exclusionary policy and there will be great consequences.
The government identified 19 lakh people without documents. Out of these, it was found that 13 lakhs were Hindus. In my opinion, the government grew alarmed, as it did not want to expel Hindus, and hence, it decided to bring in the CAA first.
The CAA clearly states that the Hindus, Christians, and Parsis without the required documents to prove their Indian identity and citizenship, will be permitted to stay (if they entered the country before 2014). But, Muslims will not be allowed.
In my opinion, it seems that the main aim of the BJP, which is also called the Jana Sangh, includes the protection of India’s Hindu cultural identity, which promotes Hindutva. It is very natural to believe that if citizenship is being granted based on the religion of a person, then it means that a Hindu Rashtra will be built.
We talk about democracy, secularity, and freedom of religion but nothing is being followed. Muslims are allegedly being threatened, harassed and humiliated for the tiniest errors in their identity documents because of which they might be thrown into the detention camps. And those belonging to other faiths, whose documents also contain errors, will be able to seek refuge under the Citizenship Act.
The seeds of hatred have been sown at a rate that every Muslim will be expelled from the country. This hatred seems to be never-ending. The Muslims are being targeted today, I believe the next will be Dalits and Sikhs. The way the Ahmadi people are facing discrimination in Pakistan is horrible.
There is a struggle to define who is a Muslim and who is not; tomorrow there might be a struggle over who is a real Hindu, whether Dalits are real Hindus or who is a Brahmin and who is not.
There were protests which were organised in many cities. Some were held together with other organisations, some with individuals. There were protests which took place all over India in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Kolkata, etc.
There have been detention camps made in different states and hence, it is crystal clear to me, that we are heading towards a genocide. This is precisely how the holocaust happened, with the majority of people in Germany unaware and uncaring.
The only people who can save this country are the citizens now, irrespective of whatever their religion is. The implementation of the NRC, of which there are no guidelines, will have no transparency. It will be completely discretionary and nobody really knows how this really going to be done.
Assam was a failed experiment and that is clear given all of these facts. I believe that this law is one more nail in the coffin of a democratic, secular India. The violence that protests have been met with in different states proves that it is right to stand up against this act.