Sunday, 4 December, 2022
HomeOpinionWithout a pan-India NRC, Modi-Shah know Citizenship Bill is nothing but symbolism 

Without a pan-India NRC, Modi-Shah know Citizenship Bill is nothing but symbolism 

BJP knows it is more alluring to keep talking about nationwide NRC than actually carrying out a complex process that can backfire, like it did in Assam.

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The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is nothing but a mere symbolic gesture. It will help the party score political points with its key constituency – Hindus. But the bill will be rendered largely meaningless because the BJP does not really plan to back it up with the pan-India National Register of Citizens or NRC. At least not yet.

The bill — dangerous and perverse — is the BJP’s instrument to reassure its core base about its commitment to the cause of Hindutva. Seeking to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Citizenship Bill will have little concrete meaning unless an actual list of those suspected to be illegal immigrants is drawn up.

Also read: Economy to Citizenship Bill – Accusations pile on PM Modi, but he could not care less

All talk and no action

For the BJP and its core voter base, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill’s fundamental purpose is to establish the division between the Muslim and the Hindu refugee. And that message can be amplified only through a countrywide NRC, which the BJP is unlikely to push for anytime soon. The party knows that it is more alluring to keep talking about it rather than actually carrying out a complex and double-edged process, which can very well backfire.

Moreover, it also helps to ensure you that while you give your voter something to chew on, you hold some back so you can stagger your Hindutva milestones — CAB now, NRC later.

Unlike in Assam where updating the NRC had its genesis in the 1985 Assam Accord, for a pan-India NRC, a legislation with a uniform cut-off date along with other defined contours will be required. If the Modi government is so confident of carrying out this exercise, it could well have brought in a bill in the Winter session of Parliament for it along with the Citizenship Bill to ensure a 360-degree implementation of what it is really promising.

Also read: Citizenship Bill can be another Article 370. If only Left would stop its wrong noise

Crafty strategy

This is a well-thought-out strategy by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah leadership. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill has been among the core Hindutva agendas of the BJP besides the Ram temple in Ayodhya, dilution of Article 370 in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Uniform Civil Code. The first two sorted, the CAB is the obvious next step, something BJP’s core base would expect.

But the BJP’s top two are aware enough to know that the CAB on its own might not have the desired effect without making the promise of accepting Hindu refugees and throwing the Muslim ones out. Hence, the constant need to go shrill on the pan-India NRC rhetoric, and yet remain ambiguous about it. No mention of the roadmap, the modalities or any other specific detail, just a vague promise of implementing it by 2024, conveniently before the next Lok Sabha election. It also gives the BJP another easy poll plank — vote us back to help us finish our unfinished work of listing out all those ‘ infiltrators ‘ who should be perhaps thrown into the Bay of Bengal.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is relatively easier — the framework is ready, the structure is in place and the BJP has already tested the waters in its last term.

Just look at the kind of activity on both fronts. For the Citizenship Bill, the Modi government has been chasing it since its last term — bringing it to Parliament twice, holding many consultations and talks, attempting back-channel negotiations and also introducing new provisions to try and pacify the northeast.

For the nationwide NRC, on the other hand, there has been no actual movement, consultations or effort — just a sea of provocative semantics. This, meanwhile, isn’t without reason.

Also read: As India becomes de facto Hindu Rashtra, BJP looks for new ways to polarise voters

The CAB-NRC conundrum

The BJP has seen how utterly difficult and tricky the NRC can be after its rocky implementation in Assam. A mere 19 lakh people — less than six per cent of all those who applied — were left out, of which several lakh are actually Hindus. The BJP had little option but to say it rejects this NRC, given how inconvenient the outcome was for it.

Even more important, however, is what the NRC did to the state. It brought Assam to a standstill, ensured all resources were diverted to this process and decelerated all other crucial work, including key government schemes. Can the Modi government even afford an exercise of this magnitude and nature across the country?

And what should worry the BJP even more is how draining this is on people, requiring them to dig out decades-old documents and run from pillar to post — as trite as that might sound — to prove they are ‘genuine’ citizens of India. At least, Assam had a context — a long ethnic conflict that saw the demand for identifying ‘outsiders’ grow organically. How will Narendra Modi and Amit Shah make it palatable for the rest of the country to go through this inconvenience and ask all Indians, including Hindus, to prove their ‘Indian-ness’?

What the BJP is doing right now isn’t a bad idea as far as its politics is concerned: dredge up the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and keep talking about the NRC to make the former seem more meaningful and effective, while not actually having to go through the trouble of risking the latter just yet.

Also read: Amit Shah’s nationwide NRC will be the same as Modi’s demonetisation

This is a Citizenship Bill minus actual NRC implementation gamble for now, and one the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo thinks it can win purely on symbolism.

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    Since the begining of December, we have observed widespread protest (even the violent ones also) throughout the country against NRC and CAB(or CAA). But what do we really know about NRC and CAB? Is CAB really communal?
    Is NRC planned to sweep out one community of India? If you have these questions, then you are at the right place to recieve answers with proof.

    Read more:

  2. I think this is where most people have got it wrong. It’s not just anti-muslim, but against all Indians… every one except those who are with the Sangh Parivar. We know that the CAA let’s people from 6 communities (except Muslims) from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afganistan get citizenship. What people (especially the Dalits, SC/STs and other minorities don’t realize is that it’s not a right. It’ only a provision. The Indian government ‘may’ grant it or they can decide to put them in detention along with the Muslims. The anti-Muslim-ness of the bill conveniently hides this.
    When the NRC process starts, we all know that it will be difficult for a large number of people (Dalits, Mulsims and even other backward castes and minorities included) will find it difficult to prove their Indian-ness. Only the high class had property rights back in the years. So the Muslims easily lose their rights immediately. True. But that doesn’t mean the others won’t. They need to apply for citizenship again based on the CAA (Basically lying that then fled from the neighboring countries due to persecution). Here is where it will get interesting. Who will have control over this process? Who will decide if you are ‘truthful’ not not.
    For a government capable of bringing CAA and NRC. They have surely planned the execution as well. And it wouldn’t surprise if they would go all the way to bring back the old caste system, where the vast majority of the country be second, third-class or even outcasts.

    • Citizenship of India is a privilege NOT a right…secondly, the issue of citizenship is vested in the Central Government by the Constitution. In this country, a dozen options are given for giving documentary proof…GENUINE citizens of the lowest classes including have ration cards and even the illegal infiltrators aka illegal economic immigrants have ration cards..! So, it stretches imagination when people repeatedly highlight the so called difficulty they face in showing any document at all. If these people have lived here for decades, how did they admit children to schools without birth certificates..? The entire citizenship laws in every sovereign country are the preserve of Central govt, India is not obligated to tax its citizens by burdening them with illegal aliens…

  3. When was the last time the United States – true, not the government proper – spoke of sanctioning senior Indian functionaries ? If the apex court goes by the plain letter of the Constitution, it would have to strike down the entire edifice of CAB. As far as the national NRC is concerned, difficult to see most opposition CMs agreeing to participate in such a disruptive wild goose chase. Perhaps not even professional fence sitters like Naveenbabu. All disruption, no creation is running out of steam.

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