New Delhi: As the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) intensifies across the country, voices have started coming out over the nomenclature of the Act, which according to many, have added to the confusion and misunderstanding.
A section of prominent people feel that there is a lot of miscommunication about the provisions of the Act which is leading to violence in different parts of the country. Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah clarifying the government’s stand, there is apprehension among a section of the society, especially Muslims, that their citizenship would be stripped and they would be thrown out of the country, whereas the Act only stipulates that those from the minority communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan would be given Indian citizenship.
Amendment literally means the “act of alteration”, “correction”, “improvement to replace a mistake” or “setting right”. Sources said the wording of the bill might have created apprehension among a section of the people that this bill might alter their citizenship. This can be one of the reasons why there are widespread protests.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Rajya Sabha BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said: “There is some kind of misunderstanding as far use of the word ‘amendment’ is concerned. I have met a lot of people, including young students. Many of them misunderstood the word ‘amendment’. They think that the bill is about amending citizenship, whereas the fact is that the bill does not impact any Indian citizen.”
“For sure, the bill has allowed motivated groups to misuse it. In my view, it could have been named ‘Humanitarian Citizenship Bill’ or something like this, as it pertains to giving citizenship to minorities facing religious persecution in the three countries on humanitarian grounds,” he said.
Expressing his views, Prof Madhav Nalapat, noted academician, said: “There is definitely the problem of miscommunication. It’s said ‘what is in a name?’ But I say ‘there is a lot in the name’. There is ambiguity in the language used in the law, which could have been addressed in the very beginning. The bill could have been named ‘Human Rights Protection of Citizens Bill’ or ‘Prevention of Atrocities on Minorities Bill’ or ‘Human Rights of Minorities Bill. This would prevent intentional or unintentional mistranslation of the bill as affecting the rights of existing citizens. Care should have been taken to choose words whose meaning does not get garbled in translation, for example from English to Urdu. The government also should have avoided mentioning the religions of the minority communities in the three neighbouring countries in the Bill, simply using the words ‘Minorities’.”
However, language experts feel that there is nothing wrong in the wording of the Act. Khwaja Ekramuddin, Professor at the Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, said: “I don’t think it has anything to do with the wording. This Bill was about changing an Act which was there in existence. So the terminology ‘citizenship amendment’ is perfectly fine. In any case, there are specific words for in legal, judicial and legislative communications, which must be used as it is. If at all the government wanted to change the nomenclature, it could have been introduced a completely new law.”
Similar was the view of Manoj Kumar Singh, an Associate Professor of Hindi at J.P. University (Bihar). Singh said: “I don’t think the word has anything to do with the confusion. In fact, the confusion is being created intentionally. The very motive behind the protests seems to polarise the people. In this, some will lose, some will gain. It has no relation to the nomenclature of the Act.”