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A lot of speculation on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) of the recent government passed by both Parliament houses, approved by the President, and set to become law. Unfortunately, much of the discussion has generated more heat than light, with extreme positions staked out by defenders and critics.
First, and for the record, let me be specific that I’m not a particular fan of the CAB, nor of the concept of providing citizenship rights based on religion — or, in this situation, discrimination based on religion in the neighborhood of India. Nor am I keen on the idea of a National Citizens ‘ Register (NRC) to follow up, the mixture of which may result in some participants becoming disenfranchised. In fact, on the CAB, it would have been fairer to include those who fled religious persecution on the grounds of any faith, including Christianity, or, perhaps, no religion at all.
Second, it is clear that the government should have been more prepared to deal with the anticipated demonstrations in the country’s north-east. This escalating demonstrations augur poorly for the region and open up the region’s unenviable ability to slip back into rampant abuse and lawlessness. To date, the government has given a relatively light intervention to the protestors, and this is appropriate in my view. What needs to be prevented in this dynamic and remote region is a blunt and heavy-handed reaction by authorities to the anticipated consternation.
Modi and the thundering re-election victory of the BJP last summer can only be understood as a large approval by the electorate of, among others, the various planks of their agenda — political, social, and cultural. That is parliamentary democracy’s in nature. Once a government has been elected, it should be supposed to act on the pledges which are made during the campaign.
On all sides of the CAB controversy, there was a fair amount of cant and cynicism, not excluding its vociferous opponents. It is interesting to note that, to put it mildly, the support of various opposition parties to the bill was rather sluggish and incoherent. Yes, surprisingly, the greatest disagreement came from those who represent a political, minority and not tho viewpoint.
There is also a strong misconception of the origins of the disturbances in the North East. Protesters aren’t fighting for the legally entrenched Nehruvian idea of secularism, but for a regional chauvinism that would exclude any competitors of any ethnicity. Or put it bluntly, many are not satisfied with the legitimization of Hindu migration from Bangladesh, as it would disrupt into a fight.
The CAB is an important piece of the puzzle in terms of the political moorings of the BJP. The concept of Hindutva sees India as the natural home of the Hindus of the planet, just as much as Zionism theory considers Israel as the Jews of the world’s natural home. There is some truth to the argument in both instances. It’s been evident with Modi and the BJP that this is their opinion, and it’s not real.
Opposition to the CAB appears low and uncertain, as compared to Modi and the guarantee of the BJP — whether valid or not — that they are doing the right thing and holding their commitments. The argument that the CAB makes India “look bad” or threaten ties with its neighbors is a red herring, at best, and mischievous, at worst.
But there is no doubt India is changing day by day in BJP’s era but whose opinion matters for BJP and that would decide India’s Fortune.