This is Part IV of the series of article on Citizenship Law.
In Part I of the series of articles, I wrote about the changes made from to time in the citizenship law of India and the changing tones of some political parties. https://www.devendranarain.com/consequences-of-…ay-be-disastrous/
Part II summarises arguments for and against CAA of 2019, NPR and NRC. The conclusion is that acceptance of the demand of those opposing CCA, NPR and NRC will have disastrous consequences. https://www.devendranarain.com/citizenship-law-…right-about-turn/
In Part III, the issues discussed are (a) whether the battle is legal or political and (b) how long it is likely to last. https://www.devendranarain.com/the-battle-over-…itical-not-legal/
Having studied the evolution of the citizenship law since the Constitution came into force (https://www.devendranarain.com/citizenship-law-…right-about-turn/), several questions have been haunting me since the agitations against the Citizenship (Amedment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) broke out.
(1) Why was there no agitation when in 2003 a Parliamentary committee (headed by Pranab Mukherjee) had recommended the grant of citizenship to the Hindu refugees from Bangladesh and expressly advised grant of citizenship to the illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh (though the Vajpayee government did not act on these recommendations)?
(2) Why was there no protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2003 that incorporated provisions for NRC?
(3) Why was there no protest when in 2009 when the Congress government decided to prepare the NPR and considered it necessary to check illegal immigrants?
(4) Why was there no protest when in 2012 when the then Union Minister Of State for Home Affairs said in the Parliament that NRC would follow the NPR?
(5) Why was no protest (outside Assam) when the CAB was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2016?
No other country in the world has witnessed agitations demanding grant of citizenship to illegal immigrants. No other country in the world has protested against measures needed in the interest of security of the country.
To my mind, there are three specific reasons violent protest against CAA 2019.
The first reason is that in 2003, friendly Congress party had supported the amendment of the Citizenship Act in 2003 and there was no apprehension that Prime Minister Vajpayee would take any bold decision like Abolition of Article 370 or abolition of triple talaq. His government included provisions for NRC in the 2003 Act but did not make it mandatory and did not accept the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee to grant citizenship to the Hindu refugees and to refuse citizenship to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. He had washed his hands off Babri Masjid demolition. The Congress was again in power between 2004 and 2014. Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s proposal to prepare NPR was partially implemented but the Congress was a Muslim friendly party. (https://www.devendranarain.com/citizenship-law-…right-about-turn/)
The second reason is that for a long time the Muslim community of India lacked an aggressive Muslim leader like Jinnah. After all, it takes time to produce such leaders. Jinnah became leader of Indian Muslims in 1933 (though to start with he was only a titular head of the Muslim League) to fight vigorously for the separate identity of the Muslims, 75 years after Syed Ahmed Khan had called upon the Indian Muslims that in British India they must maintain their separate communal identity (https://www.devendranarain.com/consequences-of-…ay-be-disastrous/ ). After partition, for several years, there was no one like Syed Ahmed Khan or Jinnah to fight for a separate identity, though several communal clashes took place, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. The scenario started changing only after the emergence of Asaduddin Owaisi on the national stage, formation and spread of network of fundamentalist and aggressive organisations like (SIMI), Popular Front of India (PFI) and (RFI)
The third reason is the emergence of Modi as a strong Prime Minister and the rise of Muslim leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi completely changed the equation. Having received three shocks in quick succession – abolition of Article 370, the abolition of triple talaq and Supreme Court judgement on Ram Temple – the Muslim leadership as well as the “United Front” of the anti-Modi political parties, saw a golden opportunity in CAA 2019. Moreover, organisations like PFI (successor to the SIMI that had been banned) and RFI were strengthening their network. (https://www.devendranarain.com/consequences-of-…ay-be-disastrous/ )
They know that the CAA is for granting citizenship to non-Muslims refugees who have been living miserably since they came to India seeking asylum. But they want doors of India to be kept open for all Muslims who want to settle here, even just to earn money here and send the money home. More Muslim population means change in demography, at least in certain states like Bengal and Assam. If 9 crore Muslims in united British India with a concentration in certain regions could force partition, why can’t more than 19 crore Muslims present today do the same?
They don’t want NPR or NRC as the presence of illegal immigrants would be known.
The fourth reason is the fear of the Uniform Civil Code. They are afraid that if they accept CAA, NPR and NRC, Modi would become bold enough to bring Uniform Civil Code that will be the biggest blow to the separate identity. In the present hostile environment, Modi will tread the path very cautiously. He has already announced dilution of NPR (the place of birth will not be asked).
The first protest against Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB) was announced on November 25, 2019. The Krishak Sramik Unnayan Parisad (KSUP) of Assam announced a series of protests starting with. hunger strike for 36 hours from November 29 to December 1. By December 4, reports of protests started coming from Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura in the north-east and also from Delhi. After the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha and more after it became a law, protests spread to West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala, Tirana, Bihar, Maharashtra and several other states and union territories. Almost all the anti-BJP political parties jumped in the fray so did several students unions of several academic institutions (mostly affiliated to the Communist parties and the Congress) and other organisations.
Protests were registered by collecting a large number of people to hear inflammatory speeches, marches and dharnas (sit-in protests). In Shaheen Bagh area of south-east Delhi, protesters have been sitting on a 2.5 km long stretch of a road connecting that part of Delhi to Noida. Similar sit-in protests are reported from some other states also.
In December 2019, protests had turned violent, especially in Uttar Pradesh. Mercifully, now there is no report of violence though protests in other forms continue.
The reasons for the protests in the north-east are quite different from the reasons in the other parts of the country. Assam and other north-eastern states opposed the grant of Indian citizenship to any refugee or illegal immigrant, irrespective of religion, because for a long time they had been protesting that the influx of outsiders was changing the region’s demography. They are very particular to maintain their own ethnic identity, language and culture. As India Today has stated in a write-up (The truth about Assam’s detention centres) uploaded on Internet on February 9, 2020, the people of Assam have been agitating over the issue – influx of Muslims from other parts of India – for a long time; the Muslims Muslim population increased from mere 9 per cent in 1881 to 19 per cent in 1931 and 23 per cent in 1941.
With an increase in the population of outsiders, Hindus as well as Muslims, the protests in the state also increased. The settlement of refugees covered by the CAA would aggravate the problem.
Elsewhere, the protesters are Muslims, supported by anti-BJP political parties and organisations. As we all know, they gave the excuse that since the new law granted citizenship only to the non-Muslim communities to the exclusion of the Muslims who had come from the neighbouring countries and Myanmar, it was a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution that granted equal protection of law to all the persons living in the country. To make the protests look more ‘constitutional’, they added Articles 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth), 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty), 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion) and 29 (protection of interests of minorities). Holding national flag and copies of the Indian Constitution, the protesters should march in the streets, raised slogans like ‘Save the Constitution’.
As we all know, ‘Save the Constitution’ is only a camouflage. The real intentions are to open India’s doors to the ‘persecuted’ Muslims of other countries such as China, Myanmar and Pakistan (where Ahmadis are not considered Muslims) and to protect the illegal Muslim immigrants. The latter is the main reason for the protest against NRC. That is the reason, there is so much noise and anger over the need to produce documents for NPR or NRC.
Has anyone ever thought how the protesters, even in small towns, most of whom would not have seen the Indian Constitution earlier, what to talk of knowledge of its the provisions, have suddenly acquired copies of the Constitution and are quoting Articles on fundamental rights? I am sure, it is the result of very good planning by those who are behind protests.
The real danger that is not being appreciated is that continuous agitations by over 20 crore people (and their number is increasing rapidly partly because of high birth rate and partly because of illegal immigrants) for preserving their identity may become a threat to the country’s unity. Already, the growth rate of the Muslim population in West Bengal is higher than the national average. If West Bengal becomes a Muslim majority state, the possibility of demand for partition cannot be ruled out.
(In the next article, how can Prime Minister Modi meet the biggest challenge ever faced by any of his predecessors.)
February 11, 2020.
Part V – Lawmakers and bureaucrats messed up citizenship-related issues – questions the wisdom of the lawmakers of the ruling NDA who unnecessarily amended the Citizenship Act in 1949 and did not change the wordings of the Amendment At in 2019 to take the steam out of the protests. https://www.devendranarain.com/lawmakers-and-bu…p-related-issues/
Part VI is about how conspirators to intellectuals have made common cause against NPR