Over 1000 Scientists, Academics Demand Withdrawal of Citizenship Bill // Bharat Bhushan: Citizenship Amendment Bill is a bid to fashion an ethnic democracy

NB: The Modi government's position is that Muslims cannot suffer religious persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh because Islam is the proclaimed state religion in these countries (I would call this a version of civil religion). This is faulty reasoning and derives from the conflation of communal ideology with religion. Its is also factually incorrect. By this logic, the numerous secular activists in Bangladesh and Pakistan murdered by religious fanatics could not have been victims of religious persecution. But they were and they are

Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistani Punjab, assassinated in 2011, was a prominent case, but there are hundreds of others. Numbers of democratic activsts and bloggers have been killed in Bangladesh over the past few years. Taslima Nasreen was hounded out her country (she was also hounded out of India) by Islamists - she is not a practising Muslim, but there are many victims of communal persecution who remain MuslimsPakistani human rights activist Rashid Rehman was shot dead in May 2014 for defending Junaid Hafeez, a university lecturer accused of blasphemy, who continues to languish in jail. Here is material on religious persecution of Muslims in Islamic countries: The religious persecution of Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd.  (Abu Zayd was an academic, but Ustaz Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a Sudanese religious thinker and engineer; was executed for apostasy (a religious offence) at the age of 76 by the regime of Gaafar Nimeiry. 

As for the Home Ministers' claim that the Congress partitioned the country, this calumny has become a habit of the RSS/BJP. More about it may be read here. Didn't the Muslim League and the colonial power have something to do with it? Wasn't Sardar Patel, the BJP's favourite Congress-man and a senior member of the Congress Working Committee party to the decision? It is not proper for politicians to make deceitful utterances on historical matters, but they do it all the time. (Here's an ongoing example of persecution for Mr Shah's party to take note and to provide a remedy for but will they?) 

As for the Two-Nation Theory, here is the Sangh's hero V. D. Savarkar's declaration on August 15, 1943: "I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah's two-nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations" (Indian Annual Register 1943 vol.2 p.10). The Hindu Mahasabha leader Bhai Parmanand advocated a communal partition as long ago as 1909: The territory beyond Sind should be united with Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier Province into a great Musalman kingdom. The Hindus of the region should come away, while at the same time Mussalman in the rest of India should go and settle in this territory.. Bhai Parmanand in 1908-9; in The Story on My Life, p 41. 

Since communalists (this includes adherents of Hindutva) tend to reduce religion to their version of it, all those killed or silenced by fanatics are victims of religious persecution. Mahatma Gandhi was a staunch follower of Sanatan Dharma, and was murdered by a Hindutva activist who is lionised by followers of the so-called Sangh Parivar. Will the BJP's leaders and intellectuals agree that Hindutva is not Hinduism? I doubt it - their entire project is to reduce the latter to the former. In which case Gandhiji was India's most prominent victim of religious persecution

I must mention here the tendency of some academicians to theorise in a direction similar to the Sangh Parivar: viz., to conflate Hinduism with Hindutva - but more on that later. Also relevant is the fact that the Communist Party of India supported the case for Pakistan between 1942 and 1947. It later admitted this to be a 'right-wing deviation'. It may interest readers to know that on the Partition issue, Jinnah and Ambedkar were on the same page'

It is my opinion that nation worship is right-wing atheism, but our nation-worshippers are not likely to agree with me. (A detailed argument on this may be read here). In which case the Home Minister's arguments fall to the ground. Muslims can be victimised by Islamist cadres and also by governmental policies - in the name of Islam; likewise, Hindus who oppose Hindutva can be, have been and continue to be persecuted by the Sangh parivar and its government - in the name of Hinduism. I will write more about this in due course, but it is important to remain mindful of the ideological deceit that is being perpetrated by the Modi government as it passes a vicious piece of legislation that violates the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution. DS

Delhi University students hold protest, burn copies of citizenship bill
Delhi University students burnt copies of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Thursday as part of a protest against the proposed legislation which they dubbed as "unconstitutional" and "communal". The protest at the university's Art Faculty was called by various students' bodies, including the Left-backed All India Students' Association (AISA) and Students' Federation of India, and autonomous women students' collective Pinjra Tod, under the banner of Collective-DU. Other organisations and students from Assam also took part in the demonstration. The protesters described the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) as "illegal" and also took out a march in the university campus. "The CAB has been brought by the RSS-BJP to further the Sangh Parivar's agenda of a 'Hindu Rashtra'," Delhi University (DU) AISA secretary Madhurima Kunda said. "(Union Home Minister) Amit Shah is no one to tell us whether we are the citizens of this country. The country will not accept citizenship on religious grounds. We also condemn the state's repression of protests in Assam," she said. (PTI)

Scientists, Academics Demand Withdrawal of Citizenship Bill 
Over 750 Indian scientists and academics have signed a letter opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill due before the Parliament on Monday. Academics from across India’s leading institutes, including JNU, TISS, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and various IITs, have released a signed statement asking the government to immediately withdraw the bill. Under the proposed law, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis who fled from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have been living in India without paper will be given citizenship. Muslims have been excluded from the bill, which PM Narendra Modi’s Cabinet approved last week.

“The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our constitution, is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally. The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the constitution. We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country,” the statement says. "We note that article 14 of the Indian constitution prohibits the State from denying ‘to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.’

While it is the job of legal experts to determine whether this draft bill violates the letter of the constitution, it seems certain to us that it violates its spirit,” it adds. This is the first time India is seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religion. Citizenship for “Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs escaping persecution” was part of the BJP’s 2019 election manifesto. 
Several states in the Northeast have seen protests against the bill. source: Huffpost

Tavleen Singh: Citizenship legally weaponised
Modi says Congress responsible for Partition: The Non-politics of the RSS

Bharat Bhushan: Citizenship Amendment Bill is a bid to fashion an ethnic democracy 
This week Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah will effectively launch the campaign of his party for the 2024 general election. He will do so by introducing the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament. The Opposition is unlikely to have an effective counter-strategy and the six decade old Citizenship Act will be amended to the ideological will of the ruling dispensation. The Modi government is fashioning something much more than an electoral strategy - a system that is democratic but also majoritarian. It wants to dismantle multicultural democracy in India - ironically, using democratic methods.

Israeli sociologist Sammy Smooha first coined the term “ethnic democracy” to describe a system that combines majoritarian electoral procedures, respect for the rule of law and individual citizenship rights with the institutionalised dominance of a majority ethnic group. The Modi government is doing in India precisely what the Jewish state does. Is this a part of the Hindutva agenda? It would certainly seem so. Several markers of such a state are already there. It was always central to the political imagination of the BJP and its mother organisation, the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS). Many of its goals have been met at a pace that the RSS itself may not have envisaged.

From abrogating the provisions of Article 370 and removing Article 35A from the Constitution and firmly ‘integrating’ Jammu and Kashmir with India, criminalising “triple talaq” amongst Muslims and indicating a movement towards a Uniform Civil Code, to securing a favourable Supreme Court ruling for the construction of a grand Ram Temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya, the BJP has done what it had promised. The Modi government has even militarily ‘punished’ Pakistan for its trans-border terrorist activities. With this the ‘weakness’ of Hindu society, with which Hindutva ideologues had been historically obsessed, has been symbolically demolished.

The BJP’s quest for the next big polarising issue has led it to the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), one following the other. The NRC will be completed by 2024 just in time for the next general election. Union Home Minister Amit Shah who once described illegal immigrants as termites, has now come to the conclusion, as a wag put it, that there are “good termites” and then there are “bad termites” eating away at India’s resources. Their classification depends on their religion. 

The justifications being offered for the CAB/NRC exercise may appeal to the majority – that Hindus or those whose religions originated in India (Indian ethnic religions) must have a homeland of their own just as various other religions have theirs; that immigrants are a drain on limited national resources or even that some immigrants (read, Muslims) are a national security threat. For all these reasons, it is argued, the issue of illegal immigrants must be sorted out once and for all.

The CAB seeks to offer fast-track citizenship by naturalisation to non-Muslims escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan). They would be granted citizenship within one to six years. Earlier the time limit was 11 years and one’s religion was irrelevant. The CAB/NRC move raises constitutional, social and political questions. The Constitutional question relates to the CAB being ultra vires of the Indian Constitution. 

Constitutionally the Indian state cannot deny any person “equality before law” and “equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Any discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth is prohibited by Article 14. This applies equally to all residents and is not limited to citizens. Equality before law has been recognised as one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution. The Modi government must know that its tinkering with citizenship law will be legally challenged. Its persistence therefore suggests that it is more interested in the social and political fallout of legislation process.

The immediate consequence of the CAB/NRC exercises will be to heighten social tensions. The Muslim community in India will be pushed to the wall with the government demanding documents which even the best of them may not be able to provide. Cleavages would emerge in society along religious lines akin to those during the partition of India. Anyone with a grudge against his Muslim neighbour can designate him an “infiltrator” or an illegal immigrant with the burden of proof being on the victim.

Politically, the resulting social instability and polarisation would be beneficial to only one party – the BJP. All those opposing CAB and NRC would be dubbed minority appeasers or those who indulge in vote bank politics. A trailer of these arguments is already being played out in the Jharkhand elections. Home Minister Shah thus said in one of his rallies referring to the next general elections: “Rahul baba says, ‘Don’t expel them, where will they go, what will they eat?’ I want to ask him, are these immigrants his cousins? Let Rahul baba say whatever he wants to, I can assure you the BJP government led by Narendra Modi will implement NRC across India, and all infiltrators will be thrown out before we come to you to seek votes the next time.” The signal to the public is that the state and the nation belong to the majority.

Smooha, however, has pointed to the basic contradiction of an ethnic democracy saying, “The founding rule of this regime is an inherent contradiction between two principles – civil and political rights for all and structural subordination of the minority to the majority.” This is precisely what the Modi government is doing, reducing democratic functioning to seeking Parliament’s approval for the CAB in order to establish an explicit constitutional inequality, preference and, therefore, dominance based on religion.

The minority Muslim community would be faced with proving its loyalty to a state in which it is neither numerically equal nor has safeguards. Political forces that never fought for India’s freedom would have hijacked it after its emergence as a society that rejected religious or ethnic nationalism and chose to be a multicultural, democratic, secular republic.

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