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HomeIndiaHow Citizenship Act, NRC will alter the idea of India

How Citizenship Act, NRC will alter the idea of India

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New Delhi: The government insists that the amended new law on citizenship (the Citizenship Amendment Act or CAA) is not anti-Muslim. In fact, it claims that Indian Muslims are not even impacted by the legislation. Its stormtroopers on social media have been deployed to vociferously argue that those criticising the revamped rules — I am among them — are begrudging fast-track protection to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring countries.
This is sophistry. It is also a convenient and deliberate cherry-picking of facts. To understand why India has just passed a highly discriminatory and blatantly prejudiced law, you must juxtapose the citizenship legislation with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s avowal of implementing an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Illegal migrants Home minister Amit Shah has already declared that the NRC will help push out all “infiltrators” from India. In that case, the religion of the “infiltrators” should not matter, should it? An illegal migrant or outsider is an outsider, irrespective of whether she is Christian, Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, right? Well, not according to the BJP’s ideological and political calculations.
These calculations first went awry in Assam — the present epicentre of the protests against the CAA — when the court-supervised NRC experiment ended in results that were politically inconvenient for the party.
About 1.9 million people found themselves excluded from the NRC in Assam, but these were not just Muslim migrants from Bangladesh — the suddenly stateless included lakhs of Hindus as well. What may now happen is something like this. The citizenship law will throw a protective shield over the disenfranchised non-Muslims; the Muslim migrants will then be left to appeal before the foreigners’ tribunals. The new law also offers legal immunity to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from jail, deportation and other criminal proceedings. In other words, the only people in internment centres will likely be Muslim migrants.
CAA, NRC The twin projects of the CAA and NRC will fundamentally change India and the nation we have always prided ourselves on being. The government has presented the CAA as an act of generosity, but when it will be weaponised by the NRC, it will become a merciless instrument of bigotry. For those who say that this does not impact India’s 200 million Muslim citizens, let me ask, how can you be untouched by the signalling that there is now a hierarchy of faiths among our people?

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