Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the debate on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha | PTI
Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the debate on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha | PTI
Text Size:

In a flourish of the brute majority the Bharatiya Janata Party enjoys in the Lok Sabha, after a marathon seven-hour debate that went past midnight, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB was passed in Lok Sabha Monday with 311 voting in favour, and the opposition, despite a spirited and reasoned critique, putting together just 80 ‘noes’. The Rajya Sabha followed suit Wednesday, with a tighter scoreline – 125 to 105. In passing this communally tinged legislation, the Narendra Modi government has successfully managed to set India on a dark path from which we may struggle to return.

The Bill that was debated, considered and passed, is by design, fundamentally antithetical to everything our country has historically stood for. By essentially declaring that one community is valued less in the eyes of their government, the amendment is not just an affront to the basic tenets of equality and religious non-discrimination that have been enshrined in our Constitution, but an all-out assault on the very idea of India that our ancestors gave their lives for during the nationalist struggle. We have now, in the words of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, taken a “giant step to officially convert a constitutional democracy into an unconstitutional ethnocracy”.


Also read: Why CAB-plus-NRC fantasy is BJP’s next Ram Mandir-plus-Article 370 gambit


Chaos in name of nationalism

In parts of India, particularly in the northeast states, the repercussions of this conversion are already being felt, with mass protests, state-wide bandhs declared and internet and telephone services suspended in certain areas. Just Tuesday evening I received an email from a worried Bengali Hindu third-generation student in Assam who pointed out that they are living in fear of reprisals against them by the local Assamese people who are worried that this bill will create an additional burden on them.

The fact is that the implications are not limited to the clauses of the bill in itself, for in introducing such a piece of legislation, especially in conjunction with a new “national NRC”, the BJP will unleash an atmosphere of fear and a climate of bigotry that will sweep across the country, claiming Indian citizens as victims, generating chaos in the name of nationalism.


Also read: CAB protests a battle for India – either we are a secular state or we aren’t India at all


The last laugh

Through this exercise, the BJP has allowed two individuals to have the last laugh. The first of course is their own ideological forefather, V.D. Savarkar who first spoke of dividing our country into a Muslim India and a non-Muslim India. In 1940, this idea was reflected in the Pakistan Resolution adopted at the Lahore session of the Muslim League. At the twilight of our nationalist struggle, our own freedom movement split on the issue of whether religion should be the determinant of nationhood. Those who believed in that principle were those who advocated the idea of Pakistan. However, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, B.R. Ambedkar believed the opposite – that religion had nothing to do with nationhood. Their idea of India was a free country for all people of all religions, regions, castes and languages, in utter repudiation of the two-nation theory. Our Constitution reflects this basic idea of India that the Modi government now seeks to betray.

As I said in my parliamentary debate, the passage of CAB will mark the definitive victory of Jinnah’s thinking over Mahatma Gandhi’s. The BJP cannot both reject Pakistan and advocate the same logic as Pakistan. How ironic that it should be that Hindutva BJP now seeks to ensure the final vindication of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. And how ironic that Prime Minister Modi should accuse his Congress critics of talking Pakistan’s in language, when it is his government that not just talks like Pakistan, but acts like Pakistan and worst of all, thinks like Pakistan.

How ironic, too, that the Hindutva party has aggressively pushed for a legislation that betrays millennia of Hindu civilisational practice and abandons a historic legacy that Hindus were proud to lay claim to. Swami Vivekananda had famously said in his 1893 Chicago speech that he was proud to speak for a land that had always offered refuge to the persecuted from all nations and faiths. We lived up to that legacy when we gave shelter to Tibetan refugees, the Bahai community, Sri Lankan Tamils, and Bangladeshis without ever asking about their religion. Now, this government wants to single out one community and refuse them asylum from oppression on the same conditions as other communities. And they are also ensuring that members of the same community within India will be subject to a climate of fear and oppression that will get worse in the wake of this exercise.


Also read: Indian liberals & Hindutva supporters, stop dragging Jinnah into Citizenship Bill debates


A Hindutva Pakistan

The right thing to do would have been to produce a religion-neutral Citizenship Bill, as many parties, including the BJP’s own ally the Akali Dal, suggested in the Lok Sabha. It is a shameless performance by a government that has even last year refused to discuss and create a National Asylum policy, which I had proposed in a Private Member’s Bill and shared personally with then Home Minister, his ministers and his home secretary. If the Modi and Amit Shah government genuinely cared about refugees, why has it consistently refused to accept the need for an objective asylum policy or come up with one of its own? Suddenly, it claims to be going the extra mile in granting citizenship to some refugees, whereas in reality, they don’t even want to do the basic as required under international law to improve the determination of refugee status or ensure decent treatment of refugees.

A little more than a year ago, I received a great deal of opprobrium for saying that an election victory for the BJP in 2019 would begin to usher in a Hindutva version of Pakistan. The ruling party protested loudly and its members rushed to sue me for defamation; a Kolkata judge even issued an arrest warrant against me for the remark. Sadly, I now sound prescient. A Hindutva version of Pakistan is just what, under BJP rule, our India is becoming.

The author is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 19 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor. Views are personal.

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

37 Comments Share Your Views

37 COMMENTS

  1. There is a rise of radical Hinduism and that is evident from the comments here. So according to all the people who have commented,
    1. People cannot come to India to improve their living
    2. People can only come to India if they feel that they are being discriminated.

    Going by that logic, every country from the world should force all the 31 million NRIs “Hindu-Indians” who have claimed citizenship of some other country to leave for their country as they enjoys 80% majority here.
    It would be amazing to watch how government will accompany and fulfill their needs and wants here.

    • Your head is as rusted as of any Congresses head. Your statement that people cannot come to India to improve their living is as absurd as the idea of India of secular crooks. And your assumption about those Indians who had taken citizenship of other countries is also absurd. Neither India nor any other nation except Islamic nations persecute its citizens. Dump your defecated thoughts into gutter of KARACHI.

      • HATS OFF TO YOU FOR NOT ACKNOWLEDGING HOW” WELL ” DALITS / WERE/ARE BEING TREATED FOR CENTURIES . IN TAMIL NADU PEOPLE OF VAISHNAVITE SECT WERE TREATED IN THE SAME MANNER THAT ISIS TREATS PEOPLE. PLEASE RECAPITULATE HISTORY, IF YOU HAVE STUDIED , OR WAKE UPTO ATROCITIES ON DALITS IN THE 21ST CENTURY ALSO

  2. Tharoor Bhai, that “brute majority” that you speak about? Guess what? We, the People of India, gave them that “brute majority”!

    So, instead of spouting nonsence about how Modi and Shah have started this great Nation down the path of darkness, sit back and reflect why we, the people of India, gave them that “brute majority”.

    Hiding behind oratory will only illumine the basic fact that the Congress, the Gandhi family and their stooges have been lying to us since Independence.

    Enough!

    If you have a credible counter to the BJP, then by all means come out and meet them on the Kurukshetra of the Polls.

    Till such time when you have the courage to come out and tell us that you in the Congress have stopped brow-nosing the Gandhi’s and actually care for the future of this great Nation and it’s people, we suggest you continue gazing at your collective navel while we March on to the Nation we want.

  3. The very purpose of this bill is not to give citizenship to persecuted non- Muslims but to alienate Muslims from citizenship.Together with NRC,CAB will deny citizenship to Muslim citizens in India,when the fail to produce the documents needed for NRC,in most cases it would be,and put Muslims in detention camps being built all over India in line with Nazi concentration camps.It’s evident that Modi-Shah duo take all decisions out of their Islamophobia..!

  4. Taroor appears to have forgotten all facts. Talking like a true congi. How many non- Muslims were there in Pakistan then and now. Similarly how non-muslims were there in Bangla and how many are alive now. Non-muslims were killed over the years there and they died because they had nowhere to go during congi rule of 65 years. Citizenship was not given to asylums till date. BJP has taken a bold step sending a clear signal to both county. Assamese are misguided group.

    • Do you know, there are end number of riots among Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. Like Hinduism, many religions have this kind of discrimination. On top of that, Pakistan government also discriminates on the basis of regions.
      How can one say that a person in majority can’t experience discrimination?
      Is it necessary for all those people to move to India on the basis of religion only?
      Can’t one move to India for a better life? Should Hindus from india also stop migrating to other countries because they have majority here?

  5. Mr Tharoor and Congress party only obsessed with Pakistan and Muslims. Hindus are being supressed under their rule. Psudo secular !!

  6. Taroor speaks for his madame without explaining how Pakistan, India can be compared similarly there is no provision in Pakistan to accommodate persecuted
    xtians parses Sikhs jains budhist from.india given citizenship ,master bluffer is beating the Bush without any essence.we have to find out how he killed his wife and has managed to remain without any trouble perhaps this shows how far our judiciary is manipulated by these politicians which is the reason ir rise in crime agsinst women ,if he can be elected as MP then the people get such crimes in plenty for they know the courts are lenient to such crimes against women

  7. As a common citizen of this country really I am not understanding the CAB.When home minister is saying that only it will effect the illegal immigrant who are from neighbouring islamic countries which are islamic countries and the minority muslims of India are not affected what the hue and cry by the opposition is for.why it effects the proud Hindu legacy .most misinterpreted idea of secular fabric of the country is spread by Congress party and still they want us to believe the same.as stated by the author if any one is worried about the bill is not the duty of these well enlightened people. Author should come out of the elite cover and see the plight of our own people who are effected by the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even in remote places of Karnataka also where in coffee plantations locals are not getting work as these illegal immigrant are ready to work for lower wages.. don’t mislead people as you people have all these decades.

  8. The Modi led government is now fully down the path of dividing India into bigotry and hate! Modi will go down in history as the worst Prime Minister of any country in the world!

  9. I feel Mr Tharoor has taken a broad brush to paint this government..

    There is nothing wrong with the logic of the bill. But that alone can’t be the reason for its passage. There are wider implications of the bill and bitterness in a sizeable section of population.

    But to say that we are Hindi version of Pakistan is taking things too far…

  10. The author’s views are bluntly biased towards congress. The so called leaders quoted are responsible for the blunder that India is today.

  11. Tharoor sets a great example of how to articulate in spite of being totally free from the bondage of logic. The entire line of congress starts were completely destroyed by Shah. That happened because CONgress is a party of cons. Shameless naked liers. Any one who can state the simple facts of CAB, can easily bust their lies.

    • So why don’t you state the ‘simple facts’ and enlighten us? While you are at it, please also explain to lesser intellects such as me why the BJP is so concerned about refugees whom they were berating as termites until not so long ago, but not bothered about the genuine worries of Indian citizens.

  12. 2 Questions
    1. Why does the History of India begin only from the Freedom Struggle and mostly from 1947.. There’s a total disregard to the ethos of this land that has a history of more than atleast 5 thousand years..
    2. Was India divided on Savarkar’s approval..? Doesn’t matter who thought and said what.. What matters is ‘who did it?’

    • Where was America 100 years back, where was Australia, Newzealand, Canada 100 years back…was it not colonised ….so what r u going do abt it, reset back to 5k years….look to future, pure past good should influence the future and hold us back

    • The history of Independent India begins from 1947. As for Savarkar, it is a fact that he approved of Partition, unlike many others on the Indian side who were forced to accept it in an ultimately failed bid to prevent bloodletting. So, the rhetorical question, who did it, is just a wonderful example of ignorance or wilful blindness.

  13. If Mr. Tharoor takes the liberty to quote Mr. Ambedkar he should also be willing to hear other quotes from Mr. Ambedkar on Muslims.

  14. There is some merit in Tharoor’s argument “when it is his government that not just talks like Pakistan, but acts like Pakistan and worst of all, thinks like Pakistan. Naturalisation that excludes one religion while favouring others is discriminatory. However, at times, the message must be sent out loud and clear. Some of our neighbours have been deeply bigoted when it comes to religion. CAB can always be amended in future, but if, at present, it forces Pakistan to introspect, it would have served its purpose. This may be simplistic thinking perhaps, but worth considering. And looking at Imran’s reaction, it is evident that CAB has hit Pakistan where it hurts most. Let all neighbours play an equal role in creating a civilised subcontinent.

    • Tharoor and all other Congressees with rotted mindset are crying to treat the oppressor and the oppressed alike. Law of civilized societies punish the oppressors and help oppressed ones. If Congress analogy is universalised, India should not have any law that favours the minorities and laws that provide reservations and all government schemes to help the poor. Congress’s arguments are self defeating. Hindus have suffered enough under Congress rule. It looks Tharoor has lost the ability to argue in India’s interest. He thinks the way a criminal thinks. In fact he is a criminal as he is accused of murder of his wife.

      Amit Shah has wisely differentiated between the oppressor i.e. the Muslims and the oppressed i.e the non-Muslims in the India’s neighboring countries Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

    • Why is Pakistan such an obsession with Indians? Is that country to be used as a standard? Let them solve their problems and let us solve ours.

      • Pakistan as an obsession with Indians? That Tharoor should answer. He brought up the comparison. The key issues are: (1) is CAB discriminatory? YES; (2) Was there a need to give this legislation so much priority? Perhaps NO; (3) However, now that the present government has taken it through the parliamentary process, does it have an important part to play in the subcontinent’s politics? YES. If the last point was NOT true, Imran etc would have minded their own business.

        • You fell in the trap again. You start with blaming Tharoor and end up cursing Imran Khan.

          There’s more to this world than Pakistan.

          Like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sight of food, Indians start barking as soon as they hear a word that even vaguely sounds like the word Pakistan.

          Indians are intellectually bankrupt.

          • Intellectually bankrupt?? Rajiv!!!! That was hardly a counter argument. Neither is your argument on “civil war” and “break-up” on some other articles highly intellectual. You are missing bigger points in my pithy comment.

      • A country that has officially declared India as its enemy, a country that swears to divide India and subjugate non-Muslims, a country which creates problems at the border with India on daily basis, a country which sends terrorists into India, a country that defames India in the world, a country that runs on Islam and persecutes non-Muslims, a country that is occupying Indian land and a country that is continuously working towards establishing Islamic state in India can’t be ignored by India. Only anti nationals of India will make Rajiv’s type of argument of ignoring Pakistan.

        • Civil war is already upon us. And so is the breakup. The Indian army is being used to fight *Indian* civilians. Internet is being cut (India has the dubious distinction of a democracy with the highest number of such blackouts).

          Wake up and smell the coffee..

          There are other very serious problems no one cares about: how about the 600 to 700 million people breathing foul air? What will it do to our children?

          Pakistan is a minor problem in comparison.

        • Wow. What a long list of complaints. How much of power you give to Pakistan to do damage to India. Apart from a few terror events, what has it achieved?

          Remember that it’s India that broke up Pakistan.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here