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By Harihar Swarup


A question invariably asked is why Narendra Modi government has invested so much political capital in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)? The Act, critics say, is plainly illogical, not least because it leaves out of its purview the largest group of stateless refugees currently living in Indian soil—Tamils from Sri Lanka —many of whom are Hindus. The Act is also manifestly immoral, in that it singles out one particular religion—Islam—for particularly spiteful treatment and exclusion from any refuge.


If the logic and morality of the CAA are suspect, the timing of the Act is mystifying. Had not the abolition of Article 370, the conversion of India’s only Muslim-majority state into a mere Union Territory, already done a great deal to satisfy the BJP’s hardliner Hindutva base? Had not the Supreme Court’s verdict in Ayodhya dispute, mandating the building of a grand new Ram temple satisfied them further? Is the greed of the base really so insatiable that this third bone has to be thrown their way so soon after the other two?


The downgrading of Jammu and Kashmir and the building of a temple in Ayodhya were issues of enormous symbolic importance to the BJP. One could understand why a second successive majority in the Lok Sabha emboldened the Modi government to act quickly in these matters. But the CAA was of a relatively trifling importance. It was estimated that just a few refugees would get Indian citizenship as a result of its passing. Why then was it given such a high priority? Particularly, at a time when the economy was in such a mess, and its revival needed urgent attention?


There are, perhaps, two reasons behind Modi government’s unseemly haste in passing the CAA through Parliament. The first is bigotry, the ideological compulsion to rub it in even further to the Muslim citizens of the Republic that they even live here on the grace of mercy of Hindu majority. The second is the hubris: the sense (or delusion) that since Muslims of India did not offer any dissent at the abrogation of Article 370 or at the court verdict concerning Ayodhya, this time too, they would meekly accept this wanton humiliation heaped on them by their own government.


It has turned out otherwise. Indian Muslims have turned out in large numbers to protest this dangerous piece of legislation. This is, in part, because—despite the post facto, and altogether unconvincing denials by the Prime Minister—the government of India, and particularly the Home Minister, have repeatedly made clear that the CAA would be implemented in conjunction with National Register for Citizens (NRC). This provoked (wholly legitimate) fear that the Muslims would be made particularly vulnerable by this pincer operation, for any non-Muslim left out by from the NRC could immediately reapply for citizenship on the basis of CAA.


One striking aspect of the popular protests against the CAA and the NRC has been that people of all faiths have enthusiastically participated. In cities like Kolkata and Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, tens of thousands and thousands of people, who are themselves not Muslims, have poured onto the streets to express their anger and dissatisfaction with the ruling regime.           


The government and supporters of CAA say the Citizenship Amendment Act has been passed to protect religious minorities—Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians—who face persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan which are all theocratic nations.


 The Opposition parties, which are orchestrating protest against the CAA, as bring ultra vires the Constitution, are trying to find their lost ground by shooting from the shoulders of students. They do not even care to educate the citizens as to how Constitution is being violated.


Article 355 of the Constitution asks the Union to protect states against the external aggression and internal disturbances. The Union is thus duty bound to protect the country from any external aggression such as illegal immigration and internal disturbances. The opposition needs to understand that the Constitution cannot be read selectively.  If the Opposition invokes the Constitution to claim its right to protect, then it cannot overlook the duty cast upon a citizen to protest peacefully. Violent means cannot be part of a protest.


It is noteworthy that once a law has been passed by Parliament, the chief ministers of states ruled by Opposition parties cannot unconstitutionally refuse to implement it, out of hatred for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This will lead to anarchy. The irony is that the Opposition, which pretends to protest in the name of Constitution, is itself violating constitutional provisions with impunity. (IPA Service)


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