Jamia Millia Islamia students’ protests and violent clashes rocked New Delhi Sunday over the amended Citizenship Act. Soon after, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University students started their own protests.
The new citizenship law, in short, says everyone is welcome in India, except Muslims.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had once said that minorities, “particularly the Muslim minority” should be “empowered to share equitably the fruits of development” and that they “must have the first claim on resources”. But the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has always emphasised that India is first for its majority. The BJP wants to make India great again but just for the Hindus.
So, if you are an illegal immigrant and anything but Muslim, you’ve hit jackpot. The passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament can now overnight turn you from an illegal immigrant, often dubbed “ghuspethiya” or a “termite”, to a citizen of India. But God forbid that if you are a Muslim and can’t prove you are an Indian citizen, you’re the kind of ‘termite’ who should get ready for symbolic fumigation. You will not be granted citizenship, not because you’ve not followed procedures but because you are a Muslim. Exactly why the BJP is bringing in both the nation-wide NRC and the new citizenship law.
For argument’s sake, let’s agree with Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in the Rajya Sabha that citizenship law isn’t anti-muslim. The benevolent Shah essentially wants to enforce a law that will undo the broken promise of the Liaquat-Nehru Pact as well as undo the excesses against the persecuted minorities of Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
The 1950 agreement was signed between former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on the pledge that both the countries will grant their minorities “equality of citizenship”, “full sense of security in respect of life” and “freedom of movement within each country”.
In fact, the ongoing agitation in the northeast against the citizenship law is hardly about secularism. The people of the northeast only want to protect their distinct tribal culture from the Bengalis who have settled there. It does not matter to them if those Bengali migrants are Hindus, Muslims or atheists.
The protests against the CAB in other parts of India, however, made something very clear. It showed how easily PM Narendra Modi and his party can target one community, just on the basis of the clothes. “You can easily make out who is spreading violence by the clothes they wear,” Modi said Sunday.
The Muslims are on their own now in this fight.
Muslims on the receiving end
If one was to see the amended citizenship law in isolation, perhaps one could imagine that persecuted minorities from Muslim-majority nations did indeed deserve a chance for a dignified life. After all, two entirely new countries were formed for Muslims. A lone India had to be a saviour of all others except Muslims who have two countries, flanking India, all for themselves. One could also believe that Muslims in these Muslim-majority nations couldn’t possibly be persecuted on religious grounds, although this claim has been debunked because many Muslim sects like the Ahmadis, Balochs and Rohingyas have indeed been persecuted.
But one has to be blind to not see the government’s workings in isolation. BJP’s Nirmal Singh, former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, right after the dilution of Article 370, had proposed that property rights in Ladakh should not be given to the rest of India so as to not dilute the culture of that land. Kashmiris, 97 per cent Muslims, who fought for their cultural identity were not bothered about the minister’s proposition even though they had the same demands.
Similarly, the triple talaq bill criminalises Muslim men who abandon their wives by just pronouncing talaq three times, whereas a non-partisan take on such a marriage law should’ve criminalised any man from any religion who abandons his wife.
In the same vein, after the NRC in Assam, many Bengali Hindus who were not included in the final list were subsequently assured of citizenship by Amit Shah. And though the Home Minister assuaged fears last week by saying that “no one will have to go to a detention camp”, it did nothing to reassure Muslims.
And now there’s the citizenship law, where a Mohan, Shyam, Krishna and Hassan could all be declared illegal but only one would face the consequence of it. Every decision of the Modi-Shah government has been about normalising the narrative against Muslims. And with many expecting the government to bring in the Uniform Civil Code and population control measures next, these all paint a very telling picture, coloured in a thick coat of Hindutva.
The idea of India
The anti-Muslim propaganda on social media platforms and WhatsApp seems to have been part of a larger design. The perception of Muslims producing children by the dozens and getting special and altogether “unnecessary” privileges by separate laws, which the Congress tried to appease them with, has been solidified in the common Indian’s psyche. That’s another thing that in the last decade, the rate of Muslim population growth has slackened significantly compared to that of the Hindu population and is at its lowest in India’s history.
The idea of India was never that of a Hindu nation or a nation first for the Hindus. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, categorically stated: “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say…Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”
If at all the Supreme Court does not strike down the amended citizenship law, and in most likelihood a nationwide NRC is conducted, the only people who stand to lose their status as citizens of India are Muslims. The popular meme that says that a prime minister who can’t provide documents of his educational qualification expects documents from poor Muslims to prove their citizenship is becoming a reality quick.
Mosques in Karnataka are reportedly already alerting people to start preparing documents of proof of citizenship because it’s only the Muslims, especially the poor, who will be singled out if their papers are incomplete.
The two-nation theory has been accepted by Modi and Shah now.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.