Ruling party exploits divisions openly, while Congress falls back on minorities.

 

Now, this is meant to provoke. The dewy-eyed liberals-secularists notwithstanding, it will be hard for anyone other than the ruling combine to successfully sell the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to ordinary people. And, whether you like it or not, when all is said and done it is the ordinary people who matter the most in a democracy.

What if Muslims have been singled out for exclusion from the ambit of the new citizenship law, given that the three countries, namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are self-avowedly Islamic? If the persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians do not get citizenship in India, the original home of Hindus, where else can they go? You may ask why include Christians? The answer is simple. No country in the neighbourhood would offer shelter to them. They routinely suffered a million indignities, especially in Pakistan, even before they enacted their all-threatening anti-blasphemy law.

Besides, why shed crocodile tears over the alleged assault on the secularist character of the Republic when the Republic itself was founded upon the division of the subcontinent only on a single criterion, that is, religion? It is no use blaming Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha for the Partition. Neither was in a position to dictate to the mighty Congress Party. The tired old Congressmen led by Jawaharlal Nehru, who pushed Jinnah into the arms of the Muslim League because he wouldn’t share power with him, agreed to the communal division with their eyes wide open—at what cost in human life and misery need not be noted here.

Granted, there would have been no need for CAB had not Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan systematically persecuted their minorities. How well they treat Hindus and other non-Muslim groups can be gauged from the precipitate fall in the percentage of the six groups at the time of the Partition and at present in their populations. On the other hand, despite self-serving propaganda about Muslims living in fear in this country as second class citizens, their numbers have grown at a much faster rate than that of the majority community, as also those of all other minorities.

Besides, CAB poses no threat to the minorities and all others who already live here. And nobody in his right mind seeks to extinguish the fine line between a refugee and an asylum-seeker. The Bill eases the passage to citizenship for refugees escaping from persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, while leaving unaltered existing conditions for legitimizing residency status of asylum seekers, illegal economic migrants and agent provocateurs being another matter.

As for the protests in Assam and elsewhere in the Northeast, these stem from an unfounded fear that CAB might open the floodgates for the ingress into their lands of hordes of persecuted refugees and alter the state’s demographic profile. These fears are misplaced and need to be addressed by competent messaging. Demographic character of Assam and Tripura was altered wilfully by successive Congress governments in the region with an eye on electoral gains. This only stopped once the Assamese rose in protest in the late 1980s. The current wave of protests is ill-conceived, underlining the failure of the local and central authorities to adequately prepare the people about the real objective of CAB. Also, the CAB is an attempt to get over the Assam-NRC exercise which listed more non-Muslims than Muslims in the 1.9 million undocumented people.

Last but not the least, let us ask this rhetorical question: If the persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, etc., from anywhere and everywhere are not granted shelter in India, where else will they go, whereas persecuted Ahmadiyas, Shias and, for that matter, Uyghurs have a number of Islamic countries to choose from?

The above pitch made to the people by the ruling party is bound to leave the critics speechless. As we said in the beginning, in a first-past-the-post electoral system that alone seems to matter to the rulers. However, what they find hard to fight politically, they may still resist by other means. Going to the judiciary to nix the contentious CAB is the obvious next step. Good luck to them.

ENCOUNTERS HAVE BEEN WITH US FOR DECADES

Time for some more plain speaking. The so-called encounter killing of the four alleged rapist-murderers of the Hyderabad veterinarian the other day reminds me of the numerous past encounters. These were no less suspect than the latest one, which has led to a lot of hand-wringing over the medieval era justice administered by the police. And as in the case of the earlier encounters, the public fuss over the Hyderabad one too will soon die down without altering a wee-bit the conduct of the police, prosecutors and judiciary.

To tell the truth, such encounters have been the norm rather than an exception all along. Whenever a crime became inconvenient for the incumbent powers, they chose to look the other way while the police disposed of the perpetrators in a false encounter. That is how dacoits were eliminated in the early years following Independence in PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab Union), now part of the larger Punjab, Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind-Morena. The police officer who led the operations in PEPSU, the late Ashwani Kumar, became some sort of a folk hero in those parts, evoking admiration and fear in equal measure.

Why, under legendary cop K.P.S. Gill they resorted to the same cold-blooded killings to quell the renewed challenge of the Khalistanis. Earlier, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, idealistic youth clubbed under the rubric of Naxalites were neutralised in a similar way. In all these cases, there was prior political sanction for such cold-blooded eliminations. The cop who oversaw the anti-Naxal operation in Kolkata too became famous, bagging key posts by dint of his dubious distinction. Why, one of the assassins of Indira Gandhi was shot dead in cold blood by the ITBP, even though he too had surrendered his firearm.

The point. Don’t get overly worked up over the latest encounter killings. Things will remain this way until the rulers and the ruled attain a degree of maturity. There is no need to despair. All developed countries have gone through the same phase in the early decades of their nationhood. Spread of education and economic growth will do where all else might have failed.

PRIVATE EQUALS PUBLIC FOR TV ANCHORS

A couple of months ago, the BBC disciplined one of its anchors for being “unprofessional” for expressing her sense of disbelief and surprise that the US President Donald Trump would ask four Democratic Congresswomen to “go home” to the countries they had come from for protesting his gross behaviour. Trump’s tweets had caused a public furore though most Americans had by then come to expect nothing better from him. The professional standards watchdog of the public broadcaster expected its journalists to keep their private views private. Hence the ticking off of the said anchor.

I recall the above episode from the British broadcaster only to point out how our own TV news anchors have shed all pretence of neutrality. The other day when CAB was debated in the Lok Sabha, a veteran anchor was so angry, so outraged that short of physically assaulting the ruling party spokesperson he did everything else. His vicious verbal assault took away from the fairness of the debate. Given that he is probably the best of the lot we are saddled with, shouldn’t he keep his own views private instead of inflicting them on his viewers?

WANTED: A HANGMAN

Some things never change. During the 1975-77 Emergency, the Tihar jail had to wait for months for want of an executioner to hang a convict long on the death row. Four decades later, the same Tihar is waiting for a hangman to execute the Nirbhaya case convicts. Back then the hangman was sourced from the Ambala jail and paid Rs 150 for his services. This time, it seems, they are getting it from Meerut jail while his remuneration for carrying out the executions is unknown.

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