Protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, have gained momentum and spread to other areas in India. With students from prestigious institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management as well as several universities having now come out to protest, this seems to be turning into a nationwide movement. Much of the violence appears to be in the form of disproportionate use of force by those in charge of law and order. The Central government is wrong if it thinks it can contain these protests with strong-arm measures such as police firing, curfews and cutting off communication facilities like the Internet. And it will be wrong and unwise on the government’s part to counter such protests, with force, misinformation and accusations of anti-national conduct, arising out of concerns over the threat to citizenship rules and the Constitution that the CAA poses. Citizens of all classes have the right and the reasons to protest against the CAA because it affects all of them. But it must be ensured that the protests are peaceful so as not to give the Central government any reason to malign them.
It is not surprising that the faultlines created by the CAA, which paves the way for citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh while ignoring Muslim refugees from these countries, are evoking exasperation and resentment. The police crackdown on students has only added fuel to the already raging fire. Though the judiciary has taken cognisance of the situation, dousing the fire will be a tall task.
N.J. Ravi Chander,
Most Opposition parties seem to lack a clear concept of “citizenship”. No nation, large or small, can afford to accept all refugees, migrants and other groups and individuals and offer citizenship. In India, a lenient approach has always been taken on humanitarian considerations and a number of amendments to rules have been made at different points in time. The present one should be considered as a measure solely to help those experiencing religious persecution in Muslim countries in the neighbourhood. The cases of Tamil refugees and the Rohingya need not be mixed up with it. The cases of Sri Lanka and Myanmar should be taken up separately. The unity among the Opposition parties is more a political game than it being about a national outlook.
It is not as if the BJP surreptitiously brought in the CAA. Nor was it the case with the annulment of Article 370 on Kashmir. Both were articles of faith for the party and formed part of the election manifesto on which it fought the 2019 elections, and won squarely and decisively. Due diligence was followed in passing the CAB in Parliament. If the Opposition was and is still bent on stalling its implementation, it has the recourse to carry the fight to the courts of the land including the Supreme Court of India. Instead it is sad to see the Opposition firing from the shoulders of students and giving the issue an unmistakable slant of religious victimhood. Moreover, it is highly imprudent and unconstitutional on the part of responsible rulers in Kerala and West Bengal threatening not to implement the CAA in their States, forgetting the consequences of their actions on the democratic polity of the nation, its functioning and the wider interests of all the people. Why should the Opposition be afraid of the wisdom, impartiality and measured judgment of courts in the first instance, failing which approaching the people in the next elections is the final resort? Surely the die is never cast irreversibly in any democracy.