BJP Manifesto 2019 on CAB
By Dr. R.K. Nimai
The manifesto of the BJP for the Lok Sabha election 2019 includes the commitment of bringing in the CAB if the party again comes to power. Under the 1st Chapter-Nation First at Item 12 which read as “We are committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution. We will make all efforts to clarify the issues to the sections of population from the Northeastern states who have expressed apprehension regarding the legislation. We reiterate our commitment to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast. Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India” indicate the stand of the party. This is a loaded objective as two communities have now been deleted namely the Christians and Parsis, which was included in CAB 2019. This makes one infer that the Christians were first added to sweeten the bitter pill to suppress opposition from the NE states and as Parsis do not have a constituency of their own with a small population, their support is not very relevant. Or perhaps they discriminate as Christianity and Zoroastrianism are considered alien religions.
In Manipur the manifesto have led many civil societies and student bodies to oppose it with some even threatening to boycott the party and also asked the party to get the item deleted from the manifesto and the local leaders should come out with their stand on the matter. On the other hand the local leaders and some of the leaders of parties associated with the BJP have come out with a number of justifications, though NPP and NPF the coalition partners have come out hammer and tong against the same. The voting is now over and result is awaited; the BJP will say that if their candidates win, the people have no objection to the Bill. This will be a fallacious argument as one have to determine the percentage of votes the other candidates who opposes the Bill receives. The fact is that the latter will garner a much larger percentage of votes; thereby indicating that the number of people who opposes the Bill is much larger than those who support it.
One narrative which is being brought out in the run up to the election is that the CAB is brought by the Congress in 1955. This is nothing but an attempt to take political mileage during the melee and to obfuscate the issue while indicating their utter lack of knowledge on the matter. The fact is that the Citizenship Act, 1955 was brought in by the Congress and there have been as far as the author knows five amendments till date. Every country has its own citizenship laws, which differ from country to country. There is no objection by anybody to the present Act but the objection is only to the proposed amendment to bring in people from the six communities from three countries who were deemed to be persecuted there by fast-tracking the existing process and grant citizenship of India for those who had stayed in India for six years by 31.12.2014 by abating all legal proceedings.
Nobody protest grant of citizenship to anybody irrespective of caste, creed or religion that had been forced to flee their mother country and seek refuge in India. There are prescribed procedure for enlisting them as refugees and even now under the existing laws they can be naturalised as Indian citizens. But the issue is about millions who had come to India not necessarily due to persecution but are economic migrants searching for greener pasture crossing international boundaries. How has anyone come to the conclusion that all those who belong to the six or now four communities coming from the three countries are all persecuted due to their minority status in their country of origin? Those who had surreptitiously entered the country illegally must be treated as such and must not be rewarded but pushed back to their country of origin. CAB is nothing but an attempt to reward criminals and criminal acts.
Till 1971 there has been discrimination in East Pakistan against minorities and those who had come mainly to Assam are being granted recognition during the updation of the NRC which is monitored by the Supreme Court. The Chakmas who are Buddhists were settled in the Lushai Hill (now Mizoram) and then NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) but now there are serious conflicts in these states. Does the BJP think that these conflicts are minor and if so point to a serious lack of understanding of the people of the region! And how are they going to protect the interest of the people of the NER especially the linguistic, cultural and political identity? By marginalising the indigene? This will be like giving placebo to a cancer patient. Just after the 1971 war in Manipur quite a number of refugees from East Pakistan was settled in Manipur like in New Checkon, Torbung Bangla, Serou, Saiton, etc.
Now coming to defending the indefensible by our leaders, we know that under the proposed law the DC and the state government is integral to the naturalisation process. But say a Bangladeshi Hindu who is settled in Jiribam is not recommended by the district administration and the state government here but he goes to a supportive state like Assam and gets his citizenship and he stays in Jiribam, what can Manipur do? Nothing! Any law must be first seen about its implementation and the likely complications and the present proposed law can easily be misused by unscrupulous politicians for their gains. The Centre here also uses its divide and rule policy by trying to negate the opposition in Assam by declaring that 6 communities there will be declared as ST, which will result in almost all Upper Assam inhabited mainly by the ST and the whole area can be declared as Scheduled area. The Centre is worried more about the reaction from Assam as they have a larger number of MPs and their aim is to bring Assam to support the Bill. Which they have literally done as the opposition to the CAB waned after the declaration that the 6 communities will be declared as ST. They need to understand the opposition in Mizoram and Nagaland which are fully ST state, where ILP was also in force where they are facing the settlement of the Brus and other aliens there. CAB will open a Pandora’s Box in the NER, the impact of which will put the indigene to a serious disadvantage. In Manipur the situation will further aggravate after the rail-line is completed.
CAB is not an issue in most of the mainland states as it will have minimal impact there. It is an emotive issue for the hard-line Hindus, the base of the BJP, which propounds the philosophy of Hindutva. India is a secular and democratic republic and any law which is biased toward any religion hurts Article 14 which provides that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Here, emphasis is given on the word ‘person’ occurring in this Article which means that not only the citizens of India but anybody is equally protected under it. The argument propounded by some of our leaders that those who are yet to be citizens of India are not bound by the Constitution of India is a priori a fallacious argument. They harp all the time that the people should read the CAB thoroughly and will find that nothing there will harm the state. I will counter that argument by saying that they had either not read the Bill properly or even having read had not fully comprehended the issue and are mere parroting what their principals wants them to say. I would once again reiterate to the leaders to go deeply into the issues of CAB and come to their own interpretation and not on the line laid down by people whose interest lie elsewhere. For big states like UP or Bihar a few thousands or lakhs does not make much difference in the demography but in say Jiribam or Wangkhei ACs, a few thousand will not only change the demographic profile but impact the politics also resulting in changing the social, cultural and identity of the indigenous people. If the indigenes are in the minority what protection can the Centre provide is a question raised by many? The attempt by about a thousand to enlist in the electoral roll in Jiribam was a pointer of things to come. Despite all efforts to stop Rohingya entering Manipur, there have been arrests or had been turned out from the boundary of the state. The active role of the government in this regard is praiseworthy but it must be understood that none of our border is properly manned or guarded and it is a general belief that only 10% of crimes are detected. The rest do not come to the fore. Assuming that about few hundreds have been detected means a few thousands have entered and scattered in the state.
One is convinced that those who are insisting on the people to read the Bill have themselves not gone through the 2016 or 2019 Bill. The later differs from the former with the addition of two provisos one each under Section 2 (I) (b) and Section 7D (f) of the Principal Act. The latter proviso is not relevant to us as it pertains to Overseas Indians. This Bill has to be read harmoniously with Section 3 (2) (c) of the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920 and provisions of the Foreigners Act 1946 will not apply to those exempted under the 1920 Act. The cut-off date was not mentioned in the CAB but inserted by two notifications; inserting clause (ha) after Clause (h) in Rule 4 (1) of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules 1950 and insertion of a Paragraph 3A after Paragraph 3 of the Foreigner Order 1948 issued on 7th September, 2015; and as the change in the crucial dates (31.13.2014) are within the delegated legislation of the Central Government it can be changed anytime. Hence, 31st December 2014 is not sacrosanct it can be changed to any date later on and the reason why this date is adopted was also not spelled out. The Bill negates Section 6A of the Citizenship Act which was inserted after the Assam Accord. The procedure for naturalisation of these groups of aliens is prescribed in the order of MHA dated 23rd December, 2016. Thus, one can confidently infer that many who are against the Bill had gone through it and other related documents thoroughly to come to the conclusion that the Bill will be harmful. Only the people of the NE region voiced their opposition to the Bill while others do not as they will not be impacted by it. We know that migration is a slow progress and people will not come in droves at a time but continuous flow of migrants will change the demography. In Tripura in 1901 the indigene constitutes about 2/3rd of the population, in 1951about ½ but in 2011 they constitute only 1/3rd. A slow but steady death! This can happen in any small states.
It may be stated that CAB is dangerous for the state is no longer an issue for debate but a fact except for those few who refuses to see the reality and the end of the road due to their biased thinking. It is a risk they are taking now, which may hound them in their later life. They should take into reckoning the stand of a BJP candidate for MP of Shillong Parliamentary seat who stated that he will commit suicide if CAB is passed.
To end this piece, there was a bloomer in the BJP manifesto which went viral in the social media. At item 11 of the Chapter on Women Empowerment due to a typo using “commit” instead of “combat” the party is transferring the laws to “commit crimes against women” and not “combat crimes against women”! Such silly mistakes make one wonder the seriousness of the party in following up the commitment made in the manifesto.
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