Why ‘Citizenship Law Change’ is Just and Fair?

R. Veera Raghavan, Advocate, Chennai

India has amended its citizenship law. Now it helps some non-Muslims, viz., Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians of three nations to become citizens of India. The three countries are India’s Muslim-majority neighbours: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Beneficiaries under the changed law should have come into India by 31st December 2014 and been here for five years to apply for citizenship.

Renowned lawyers say the amendment is Constitutionally sound. But leaving legal issues to the Supreme Court, why is the new law just and fair, and why do the Congress and some other parties oppose it?

First, some basics. All nations have to make some key laws and regulations in tune with the psyche and aspirations of its people – in a democracy, according to the wishes of a majority of its voters, as reasonably gauged by a government or as found in a referendum where it works. Like, the UK may make a law or regulation for exiting from EEC, though a minority of voters may prefer their country remaining within EEC.

Hindus make nearly 80% of India’s population, Muslims about 14%, and others 6% as per the 2011 census. India is the land of origin of Hinduism, and this emotionally and eternally means a lot for Indian Hindus – and for Hindus elsewhere too – though the Indian Constitution may be silent about it. Indian laws do not just treat non-Hindus equally with the Hindu majority. They give minorities some privileges which the 80% Hindus don’t get. Legally, Hindus are treated somewhat unequally in the land of their origin and culture. When that inequality is worked on the ground, abused and also maladministered, it hurts the Hindus more, though that was unforeseen by the law.

Now, look at citizens of minority religions in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, mainly Hindus who have ethnic links with Indian Hindus. They have been persecuted over there for years and have vastly shrunk in their numbers in those countries. Many among them have taken refuge in India. Where else will the Hindus among them go or gain sympathy and acceptance?

Hindus of India will naturally feel for the tormented members of their religion in other nations – especially Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – and would welcome India giving relief to those distressed men and women. That is natural. But something more is needed for action to help. It needs an extraordinary daring to espouse and do the right thing while governing a nation, more so when faced with opposition and protests stoked by rival political parties. This is what the BJP-led government has done through changes in the citizenship law.  While doing this right thing, the BJP will also be appreciated by large sections of Indian voters, which the Congress party and many other Opposition parties are worried about. So, the Congress and other parties oppose this measure as discriminatory – in an attempt to embrace imagined Muslim victims of the new law, and unaware that their stance distances them from a large number of voters even further.

Look at this. Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan tweets his condemnation of our changed citizenship law. The Congress party and its leader Rahul Gandhi too issue statements opposing the new law. Would you believe that Pakistan never wishes India well and so opposes India’s citizenship amendment – and that the Congress party too reflects Pakistan’s views against India? Or would you imagine that the Congress party always does things right for India and so opposes the new law – and that Pakistan too allies with Congress sentiments for the good of India? Pakistan and the Congress party together faulting the present Indian government on our domestic issue shows their desperation against the Modi government.  After all, Modi is a hurdle to both of them on their plans for India and for themselves.

Critiques in the media question why Muslims who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan as refugees are not offered Indian citizenship on par with other refugees.  This is also the voice of some Opposition political parties.  First, Muslim nations have to take care of their Muslim citizens, and there can be no religious persecution of Muslims by Muslims. Second, this criticism is adding insult to injury for the Indian Hindus who are already being outgrown in their land by privileged minorities, especially Muslims. Accelerating the fall in the strength of the native Hindu population in any way is against the interests and well-being of Indian Hindus. You don’t need big brains to sense this. If you have doubts, ask people forming the majority religion in any other country if they would be at peace when minorities on their land steadily grow fast to outnumber the majority. India’s Hindus are beginning to realise that their tolerance, goodness and hospitality have been abused by some rulers and political parties who overly appease India’s vociferous minorities and neglect genuine Hindu concerns and anxieties.

The average Indian Muslim, whose ancestors were Hindus, is harmless and could peacefully co-exist with Indian Hindus. But he is in the grip of his religious and political exploiters and is misled by them in harbouring a needless antipathy to Hindus or imagined insecurity in India, though enjoying privileges he cannot get in any other country, even in a Muslim-majority nation.

The political and religious exploitation of Indian Muslims for the selfish gains of a few leaders plays a part in the protests stirred up against the amended citizenship law in parts of India. Concerns expressed by citizens in India’s north-eastern states are on a different footing, and the government must listen to them and resolve those issues separately. Otherwise, it is a test of strength for India’s political leadership to do the right thing, and stand by it with tact, diplomacy and resolve. Who else is our best bet on this except Narendra Modi, with Amit Shah by his side?

Copyright: R. Veera Raghavan. Article borrowed with thanks from HERE.

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