By Arun Srivastava


Citizens Amendment Bill (CAB) is a majoritarian exercise carried out by the Modi government at the directive of the RSS. This would change the approach and attitude of the state towards its citizens. The new definition of citizenship will fundamentally change the century old concept of Indianness which was a way of life. But in future it would be guided more by the compulsion of commercialisation. 


There are some glaring disconnect in the bill. The statement of objects and reasons attached to the draft mentions “persecution” but the bill itself does not. Modi-Shah needed some alibi to change the fundamental character of the country and this could not have been possible without mentioning the word persecution.


The draft of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that was circulated among MPs shows a “discrepancy” that had not been conclusively addressed even after the piece of legislation was passed in the Rajya Sabha.


It is not clear why the word has been omitted from the main body of the bill although an impression had been generated that the bill is aimed at helping those who had been persecuted in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This omission also raises questions on the intentions of the Modi-Shah government. 


The bill will change the dimension of the Indian demography. The people who do not enjoy the protection of constitution would cease to be Indians. Till today it was the sense of belonging, the attachment that guided the ethos of nationality.


Presenting the bill before parliament though Amit Shah repeatedly assured the parliament that the Muslims would continue to the citizens of India, how anyone can forget his assertion that he is going to hunt out Muslim “termites” and deport them. His remark makes it abundantly clear that the real purpose of the Citizenship Amendment Bill is to push India closer to becoming a Hindu Rashtra.


None should nurse any illusion that not only Muslims even the Dalits and poor have any place in Modi’s “new India”. Shah’s hatred for these people got reflected in his recent speech at an election rally in Jharkhand where he described these people as the “cousin” of Rahul Gandhi.  Politicians usually address the people as “bhaion” (cousin). But here he refrained. 


One development is quite noticeable. Instead of facing the parliament personally Modi has entrusted the task to Shah who has been using his muscle power to accomplish the task.  While Shah has been managing the house, RSS has been providing the intellectual and academic feed back. Ram Madhav has been doing this job. .


It is shocking to find how the RSS and BJP leaders were distorting the history for achieving their mission. It is dreadful to see how the middle class of this country who claim to know everything has been subscribing to the white lies served by Shah. He was not speaking the truth was exposed by Sudheendra Kulkarni, former aide to L.K. Advani who had nurtured the current crop of BJP leaders. Kulkarni tweeted: “In the history of Parliament, rarely have we heard a senior minister speak such a WHITE LIE to defend a black law! The Congress did NOT do, nor accept, Partition on the basis of religion. Muslim League did. “


Shah ought to have known that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were frustrated with Jinnah’s irrational rigidity. Expressing his antipathy to Jinnah’s turn to communal politics, Nehru wrote in The Discovery of India on his propagation of the two-nation theory: “Why only two I do not know, for if nationality was based on religion, then there were many nations in India. Of two brothers one may be a Hindu, another a Muslim; they would belong to two different nations.”


It would not come as a surprise if tomorrow they are barred from rights, primarily the right to property. One ought to not to forget that the BJP leaders, particularly Modi and Shah have been telling around that Indian citizenship is no longer anyone’s birthright. It will in future be treated as a privilege. If the person cannot prove that he is Indian, then in that case he will end up in detention camps or deported.


Shah has been naming Bangladesh as one of the countries which has been carrying on persecution. But this is completely a false statement.  During the Bangladesh war crores of Hindus and Muslims had taken refuge in India in search of jobs and a better life. But now the fact is the people of that country are doing much better than India. The truth is that many social and economic indicators now show that Bangladesh has gone ahead of India in some areas.


Shah tried to play to the Hindu sentiment. He frequently mentioned the word Muslim and their protection only with the aim to reach out to Hindus. He added that Muslims can continue to apply for Indian citizenship under existing provisions of the law, pointing out that 566 Muslims had become Indian citizens over the past few years. To specific questions on the fate of Muslims who do not get citizenship – particularly in the context of the NRC – he said: “No one will be sent to detention camps because of CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill).”


This has been a vague and confusing statement.  Shah said that Muslim do not need to worry about their future safety. The manner in which the word Muslim has been vitiated, any Muslim will find it difficult to get acceptance from the government. On every step he would have to show his nationality certificate for his existence. He will always be a suspect in the eyes of the people of this country. The hatred amongst the Neo-Hindus, the supporters of BJP’s Hindutva would simply intensify. 


The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) has reopened a fundamental debate that lies at the heart of India’s identity quest. Who is an Indian is a question that has been central to the task of nation-building. India’s Constitution-makers discussed and debated the topic for almost two years. They ultimately chose a territorial definition of Indian citizenship: Whoever was born in India was an Indian regardless of any other identity marker. But now the definition has changed whoever is Hindu is Indian. The Bill nevertheless makes slight change; whoever is rich can become the Indian citizen. India is homeland of Hindus.


One thing is absolutely clear that after the new citizenship law is passed, these non-Muslims primarily the Dalits and poor will become refugees whereas an ethno-religious criterion will guide the exclusion of the Muslim migrants from citizenship. Already the people of Assam have hit the roads and at least three youths have been killed in police firing. These developments are bound to change the political demography of India. (IPA Service)

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