New Delhi: It is more than a month since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by both the Houses of Parliament. However, the debate, which should have taken place before its enactment, started after it was passed by Parliament, and has not stopped till now. Though the violent protests which happened soon after its enactment have stopped, reports of protests are still pouring in from different parts of the country, in some form or the other. The protests at Shaheen Bagh are still going on and there is no clarity when they will be called off. There is definitely no harm if there is a healthy debate over an issue. But the moment it turns violent, it becomes a matter of concern. While the earlier violence has stopped, the debate has led to a massive polarisation within the country.
The last time, perhaps, such a polarisation took place was when the V.P. Singh government implemented the Mandal Commission report in 1990. There were massive protests across the country led by people mainly from the so-called forward castes. The reaction was spontaneous and it spread to different parts of the country in no time. Mind it, there was no social media at that time. Though the level of protests this time is not the Mandal kind, there is no denying the fact that the CAA issue has sharply polarised the people, as evident from the reactions coming from the social media. There is a kind of social churning going on which will have far-reaching implications in Indian society.
The Mandal churning led to a firm belief that one cannot solely depend on government jobs and one needs to explore opportunities in the private sector. Prior to that, private sector jobs were limited and were not considered respectable. That mindset changed in the post-Mandal era. This was followed by the economic reforms carried out by the Narasimha Rao government, which led to creation of a different kind of economy and a whole lot of opportunities in the private sector. Now, a significantly large number of people are employed in the private sector. In fact, in many cases, private sector jobs are considered as good, if not better, as government sector jobs in terms of opportunities, remuneration and career growth.
A similar churning is going on today due to the CAA. There are clearly two divisions—either you are for it or against it. The protests have been carried out mainly by the Muslim community. They are backed by a very small but loud opposition led by almost insignificant Communists and electorally demolished Congress. Muslims fear that there is an attempt to make India a Hindu nation and claim that their protest is for “protecting the Constitution of India”. Rather than calming the situation and clearing the misgivings about the Act, their fears are stoked by the Left-leaning media and academia.
While there is not much opposition for the Hindus and other minorities from the neighbouring countries to be given citizenship, there is concern why the Muslims have been left out. Not being an aggrieved party, an overwhelming majority of CAA supporters has remained silent and off the streets. Even when they have come out in support, they have been extremely peaceful and disciplined.
When there is a demand to give citizenship to the Muslims of the neighboring Islamic theocracies, it is an admission that even Muslims are not being well treated in those countries. In fact, there have been reports of persecution of Ahmadiyyas, Shias and Sufi Muslims, within Pakistan. These protesters also have sympathy for the illegal Bangladeshis and Rohingyas coming to India and they want citizenship to be given to them as well. The protesters should pressurise Pakistan and Bangladesh governments to stop atrocities on Muslims, instead of asking the Indian government to give citizenship to persecuted Muslims. It is also important to note that the CAA does not at all alter the requirements for acquiring Indian citizenship.
Secondly, in advocating inclusion of Muslims in the CAA, the protesters are turning a blind eye to the historical context. They are also ignoring the fact that living the division of India was due to the fact that Muslims refused to live in a Hindu majority state. The thought of potentially being “ruled” by the population they had ruled for hundreds of years was unacceptable to many pre-Partition. So what has now changed over the past 70 years that is “challenging” the two-nation theory of Sir Syed and Jinnah? Do the CAA protesters truly believe that the two-nation theory has failed and that Hindus and Muslims should co-exist in a peaceful manner? There is definitely something in India that attracts people from all faiths, including the Muslims. Otherwise, why is there so much of insistence to include Muslims also in the CAA? If that is the case, the debate over CAA may be the starting point of realisation of the “Karunya Bharat’’.
While Indian Muslims want their brethren to come to India, there is no such demand in Pakistan to give citizenship to Indian Muslims. This is primarily because they have antipathy towards Muslims who came from the Indian side (Muhajirs), who are facing discrimination. Secondly, Indian Muslims feel at home in India, without any discrimination. They know that they are much better off in India than in Pakistan. Therefore, they actually are not interested in taking refuge there.
When the Partition took place in 1947, people opted for their choice. Those Hindus and other minorities who could not decide at that moment and remained in Pakistan (and Bangladesh), have been given a chance to get Indian citizenship. Will Pakistan give such an option to minorities living in India? Even if they do, they are unlikely to go there. Has there been any case of Indian Muslims going to Pakistan or Bangladesh as refugees? No. Because, there is no religious persecution against minorities in India.
It can be safely assumed that the Indian model has become an example for the Muslims. Therefore, apart from demanding citizenship to Muslims, the protesters should also demand that boundaries existing between India and Pakistan / Bangaldesh should be scrapped, paving the way for a visa free subcontinent. The ongoing protests against CAA raise question marks on the two-nation theory of M.A. Jinnah. In this situation, is there a need for a boundary? Why cannot the pre-Partition status be restored? It may some day become a reality with all people who have common origin in the Indus Valley civilization, come under one boundary although separate states.