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CAA: A two-pronged Sword for Modi >> Mohammad Zainal Abedin

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is infamous for his anti-Muslim hatred, faces a two-pronged sword named CAA. The CAA designs to accept the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians as the citizens of India who according to Modi entered India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Presenting the bill before the parliament Indian Home Minister Amit Shah argued Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan constitutionally and officially are Islamic Republics where Muslims are overwhelming majority and the non-Muslim minorities from those countries entered India to avert persecution. Such an argument fails to convince the cross-section of Indian people.

Earlier under the NRC (National Register of Citizens) about 1.9 million Indians, who live in India for decades, even centuries, were not enlisted as citizens. Among them 1.2 million were Hindus that irked huge demonstration and condemnation across India.

Facing strong opposition against NRC Modi government placed CAB (Citizenship Amended Bill), an amended version of NRC.  CAB turned to CAA after India’s two houses accepted it. It excluded the Muslims from becoming the citizens of India. The law faces tougher opposition not only from the Muslims but also from the many Hindu-led political parties and human rights groups. They denounced it alleging it is contrary to the Indian constitution and its secular status and it suffers from ultra-communal designs.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have described the citizenship bill as a means of protecting vulnerable groups from persecution. But his argument failed to convince the people. But to protect the vulnerable groups from persecution Muslims need not to be victimized. It is a bluff. Muslims are a target to unified Hindus to vote for RSS-led BJP.

The major parties that oppose CAA are Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) other than some other minor and regional political parties. They claim that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion.

In contrast, widespread protests sweep North Eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland opposing CAA as it paves the way for the foreigners to stay in the region who entered there since 1947 who overnumbered the local indigenous people. CAA or NRC faces oppositions from the indigenous people and the new settlers as well. Settlers are desperate to remain in the Northeast while the indigenous people demand their expulsion from the region.

Assam Congress demanded a special session of the Assam assembly to discuss CAA. In mainland India chief ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh said they would not implement the law in their respective states. Maharashtra State Chief Minister also hinted to assimilate with these six chief ministers.

CNN quoted Harsh Mander, a human rights activist and author as saying: “There is a short-term and long-term objective to polarize India’s voters on the basis of religious lines,”. Mander alleged, “The BJP and its ideological partner Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (have) never accepted the constitution and the citizenship of this country and they have the leverage now and the numbers to effectively destroy India’s constitution, recreating India according to their imagination as a Hindu state.”

(https://spectrumreport.com/two-killed-in-protests-over-controversial-indian-citizenship-bill/)

Human rights groups say the law targets India’s minority Muslim population (15% of India’s total) that undermines India’s secular constitution.

Denouncing the Act Sonia Gandhi, the president of the opposition Indian National Congress in a statement said “Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India”.

 She added, “The passage of the citizenship amendment bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”

Former Congress President and MP Rahul Gandhi, said the law was an attempt to “ethnically cleanse the Northeast. It is a criminal attack on the Northeast, their way of life and the idea of India.”

On December 16, (2019) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee while addressing a mammoth protest rally in Kolkata reiterated her commitment saying NRC or CAA could be implemented over her dead body. She concluded her speech saying ‘Joy Bangla’ (an official slogan of Bangladesh). Earlier she warned the Modi government saying ‘don’t push us to wage another independence movement’.

One of the organizers of the anti-CAA hunger strike, Simanta Thakuria, a Masters student of Assam, while talking to ‘The Guardian’ (on December 13, 2018) said, “This bill has to go back at any cost. We will not rest until we get this done. Thousands of people have joined us, as you can see and it’s completely non-violent. We don’t support any form of violence. This is our state, our land. Not only in Guwahati but people are protesting everywhere in Assam.”

Meanwhile, in a statement the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that it was deeply troubled over the passage of the bill in Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament).

“If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the US government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership,” the commission suggested.

“USCIRF is ‘deeply troubled’ by the passage of the CAB (turned to CAA), originally introduced by Home Minister Shah, in the Lok Sabha given the religion criterion in the bill,” it added.

The USCIRF alleged that the CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically exclude Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.

“The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” it said.

Stating that in conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and nationwide NRC that Home Minister Shah seeks to propose, the commission said: “USCIRF fears that the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip citizenship from millions of Muslims”.

(https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-citizens-un/new-indian-citizenship-law-discriminatory-against-muslims-un-idUSKBN1YH145)

Opposing the CAA when the students of Jamia Milia Islamia University organized a protest demonstration police swooped on them. The students on the following day bid to stage demonstration when police became ferocious. Policemen, without taking permission, entered the campus forcibly and fired indiscriminately at innocent students who were studying in the university library and were not part of the protest or agitation outside.

The testimonies from those present in Jamia on Sunday (December 15, 2019) suggest that the police targeted individuals indiscriminately, even entering the mosque on campus and hurting a local Imam (who leads prayer).

Recounting the police attack in the university library, videos of which went viral on social media, one Jamia student said, “There were 50-60 students in the library. When the police started lobbing teargas towards the library, the students came upstairs and roughly 15 minutes later, the police entered the campus by force. They broke the doors of the library and started shelling tear gas.”

Showing his bandaged and bloodied knee and arms, the student said he was lucky enough to escape a head injury. He said that the students in the library were not part of any protest.

Another student said Delhi Police pulled the women (students) in the library by their hair and thrashed them.

He also alleged that his uncle, a security guard in Jamia was beaten up the police when he tried to save a local Imam.

Female students of Jamia University alleged that police snatched their cell phones and smashed them.

ALJAZEERA quoting a student said, “They (police) broke the lock of the library gate and entered inside and beat everyone who came in their way.”  He said, “In a panic, I fell on to the ground. They hit me on the eye.”

“We were about 200-300 people who were trapped inside,” one student named Mojibi told CNN. “We tried to negotiate with the police to not use violence. But they surrounded us and took our phones and broke them. They broke the CCTV cameras installed there.” Mojibi said, police “abused and humiliated us.”

“We were made to kneel on the ground for 30 minutes …..(inside the) university library where the students had taken refuge was a scene of devastation.”  CNN reporters found doors and windows smashed, glass littering the floor, abandoned shoes, and overturned tables and chairs.

Security cameras were also broken — which students said police had done.

Police atrocities at Jamia erupted as explosives in educational institutions of many major cities in India. Common people, including the leaders of different major parties expressing solidarity with the students also went to the streets to demonstrate against police atrocities.

Students’ unions in Arunachal Pradesh boycotted examinations and hit the streets across the state, seeking immediate revocation of the law. Thousands of students marched 30 km of hilly terrain to Raj Bhavan to ask the governor BD Mishra in a memorandum not to implement the law in the state.

 Around 20 people were hurt in clashes in Meghalaya. “They can’t settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” said Manav Das, a protester, in Guwahati. Several districts in Assam remained under curfew to contain violent demonstrations.

In Digboi BJP workers were beaten up and threatened of dire consequences if they do not leave the party.

(https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/assam-tense-protests-against-caa-in-other-states/articleshow/72579331.cms)

‘Ananadabazar’ a Bengali daily of Kolkata reported on December 16, 2019: “There is no sign of diminishing the trend unrest across the country. The movement gradually gains ground against the CAA.”

It reported: Students of Indian Institute of Technology and Tata Institute of Social Science (Bombay, Maharashtra),  Maulana Azad Medical College and Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi), Aligarh Muslim University, Nadoya College and Banaras Hindu University  (Uttar Pradesh), Jadavpur University and Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (Kolkata), Patna University (Bihar), Indian Institute Institute of Management of Ahmedabad (Gujarat —  home to Modi and Amit Shah), Maulana Azad Urdu University of Hyderabad (Telangana), Indian Institute of  Technology Madras (Tamil Nadu), Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru (Karnataka) Puducherry (Pondicherry) University, Chandigarh University (of Punjab), Sikkim University.

‘Anandabazar’ said, all the offices, educational institutions, Secretariat, metro-station, all roads and streets adjoining to Jamia Millia Islamic University was closed that severely disrupted traffic movement.

The daily said, among all others, two front-ranking Muslims leaders Jamirul Hasan and and Anwar Pasa belonging to West Bengal branch of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was arrested on the morning of December 16 (2019). Moreover, hundreds of demonstrators were arrested across India centering the controversial law.

Meanwhile, politicians also extended their solidarity demanding the withdrawal of CAA went to the streets.  Congress President Sonia supporting them sat on a symbolic hunger strike for two hours at India Gate. The most surprising aspect of this movement is that leaders of parties of the Southern parts of India forgetting their differences went to the street to demonstrate alongside the students.

Pointing to this unique solidarity, ‘The India Today’ (December 17, 2018) reported: “In a rare show of camaraderie, bitter political foes — Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and leader of opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala — came together at a joint protest in the state capital and condemned the act with the former saying it was an attempt to ‘curb’ freedom.”

“Addressing the protest, Vijayan said the country was facing an ‘explosive’ atmosphere and the CAA was an attempt to stifle freedom attained through sacrifices.”

“Claiming that the amendment altered the basic structure of the Constitution and hence ‘unconstitutional’. He said the new law has “omitted those who have faced worse persecution in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.”

“Article 14 provides equality to all citizens. When a law is against the fundamental rights, its unconstitutional…The government is silent about the Sri Lankan Tamils, thousands of Rohingyas,” he added.

(https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/protests-galore-in-south-as-students-join-forces-against-caa-1628821-2019-12-16)

(AASU activists hang the effigies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, centre, Home Minister Amit Shah, second from left, and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, second from right, along with some other leaders’, during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati [Anupam Nath/AP Photo] Courtesy: The Aljazeera )

More than 700 leading Indian personalities, including judges, lawyers, academics and actors, have signed a statement condemning the bill. In it they say the government appears “intent on causing huge upheavals within Indian society.”

Prominent human rights worker Harsh Mander, a Hindu, has said he will register as a Muslim and ‘demand’ the same punishment meted out to any undocumented Muslims.  If CAB is passed, this is my civil disobedience: “I will officially register as Muslim. I will then refuse to submit any documents to NRC. I will finally demand the same punishment as any undocumented Muslim – detention center & withdrawn citizenship. Join this civil disobedience.”

A Hollywood star John Cusack expressed his solidarity with the students of Jamia.  In his twitter, he wrote: he shared a video of the injured students of Jamia. He condemned the incident.

Bollywood stars like Richa Chadha, Sayani Gupta, Huma Qureshi, Anurag Kashyap, Parineeti Chopra, Pulkit Samrat and Manoj Bajpayee, also sided with the students.

 In the Malayalam film industry, filmmakers and actors like Rajisha Vijayan, Aashiq Abu, Parvathy, Anarkali, Sarjano Khalid Amala Paul, Divya Prabha and Muhsin Parari have been sharing posts supporting the ongoing resistance.

Analyzing the stern opposition  from all quarters of India I can conclude in brief that Modi can neither implement nor scarp CAA. If he bids to implement it he will face countrywide tough movement that will throw India to uncertainty, uncontrolled chaos, rivalry that may weaken its foundation of integrity, what Mamata indirectly indicated.

On the other hand, if he withdraws CAA, it allows the outsiders to become the citizens of India what will face tough opposition from India’s northeastern states where the indigenous became minority due to the flow of Indians from the mainland. Indigenous people demand to expel all the Indians who coming other states captured their land, job and other opportunities. Even the extremist communal Hindus, who Modi’s vote bank will desert him. In that case, Modi will be isolated from his party and supporters. CAA is, as if, such throne inside Modi’s throat which he neither can devour nor disgorge.*

December 18, 2019

Courtesy: The Runner News

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