1975 2020: The Citizenship Amendment Act
As the world transitions into the third decade of the 21st century, India slips back into the not so glorious 1970s. Popular opinion says Indians are living in an undeclared emergency, it seems the Congress and the BJP have more in common than expected. Communal riots, persecution of demonstrators, people in power blatantly and unfairly obstructing democracy, sound familiar?
If you aren’t already aware of the situation in India, which even some Indians are unaware of because our government decided to block internet usage in certain states, let me fill you in. The government of India recently passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955. The amendments grants Indian citizenship to immigrant individuals belonging to the minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The act does not offer the same to Muslim immigrants, and states that Muslims would be identified on the basis of their clothes.
Through this post I will not vocalize an apparent ‘liberal’ point of view, for over 5000 people have been detained and 925 arrested for doing so. I will try to keep my premise factual.
First off, this amendment, though not yet legally declared so by the judiciary, can in many ways be held as undemocratic. The constitution of India clearly states that India is in fact a secular nation. The repulsiveness of political leaders who propagate bigotry is overwhelming. This law blatantly goes against the Muslim community. And of course, our executive will say that Muslims are not a minority, but is that truly a justifiable excuse for letting people die at the borders, for setting up detention camps to hold hostage immigrants who fled their countries to save their lives only to end up in conditions worse than death? This is exactly what Trump is doing with the Hispanics and Boris is doing with European refugees and the world sees it for what it truly is, wrong. If a Muslim is fleeing a country where they are a minority, obviously, they are not doing it for some thrilling joyride. Take for instance the Muslims being killed in Burma, it is India’s duty to help them. Furthermore, detaining people for protesting against something they believe is undemocratic seems rather unfair.
Secondly, it appears that the reason behind the conjuring of this Amendment might have been Mr. Modi’s need to appease to a gradually diminishing voter bank. After the loss in Jharkhand, I suppose they believed enraging and fueling communal hatred would help their case. However, even bhakts can see through the unfairness of this amendment as they take to the streets. With barely 200 people at pro-CAA rallies and 20000 at anti-CAA protests in Mumbai, circumstances must be pressing for the government.
A third point to consider might be the fact that the passing of this Amendment is not going to stop Muslims from entering the country. Muslims in need will continue to seek refuge in India till they are identified as Muslims through their “clothes,” and knowing the red-tape of it all, it could take a while. The only thing this Act will do, is enrage Muslims and fuel violence. Islam is not a violent religion, absolutely not, but when you are discriminated against blatantly, you cannot be expected to stay still.
Frankly, at this point either the government is unaware of the larger fish it has to fry, or it is using the CAA as bait to distract us from them. India’s economy is crumbling. Unemployment is at an all-time high, GDP growth is at 4.5%, there is negative industrial output in our country and there have been budget cuts for defence and education. We need to get our priorities straight. And despite all of this we have a finance minister who says she is unbothered by the price of onions because her family does not eat them, and a Prime Minister who promises that India will be a 5 trillion dollar economy in the next five years.
Indian people are not foolish. It is not the 20th century anymore where people can be fooled due to their lack of understanding. The Indian janta is aware of what democracy is, and moreover we know how to fight for it. Indian citizens would urge the government to perhaps focus on the tanking economy as opposed to creating a divide between communities, because judging by India’s reaction, that is impossible. As twe stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters, we hope to be liberated from this déjà vu of the 70s.