Home Forum Citizenship Amendment Act: PM Modi fulfils another commitment

Citizenship Amendment Act: PM Modi fulfils another commitment

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By Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government, fulfilling its electoral promise, issued a notification on Monday evening for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It is known that amid opposition from opposition politicians, the CAA was approved by Parliament in December 2019. The opposition tried to confuse the public by raising the issue of states in Northeast India, but their move was not successful. The government has reassured people with seriousness and sensitivity. The government has clarified that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, will not be implemented in some parts of North- Eastern states where an Inner Line Permit (ILP) is required for travel by people from other parts, including tribal areas under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The ILP is currently applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. In addition, autonomous councils established in tribal areas, such as the Karbi Anglong in Assam, Dima Hasao, the Bodo areas in Assam, and the Garo Hills in Meghalaya, have also been exempted from the ambit of the CAA.

Keeping in mind the promises made in the BJP’s 2019 manifesto, the government has implemented this law with full seriousness, embodying the spirit of ‘promises made, promises kept’. This all happened in an environment where the opposition not only criticised the bill but also tried to mislead the country on this important issue. Today, our opposition is trying to connect the time of the notification with the upcoming elections, but the truth is that the government wants to fulfil all its promises before the Lok Sabha elections. The law was passed in December 2019, but detailed rules were not formulated. As a result, there were protests, which decreased only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and several petitions remained pending before the Supreme Court. Now that the notification has been issued, the central government has announced that Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jains or Christians coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will be granted citizenship on fleeing religious persecution. The government, while expressing its commitment to implementing the law, has clarified that eligible persons can submit their applications “completely online”. An official said that no other documents will be sought from the applicants. The implementation of the CAA before the 2019 elections was a major campaign for the BJP, and today, with the issuance of the notification, the Modi government has fulfilled its important promise to the public.

A month ago, Home Minister Amit Shah called the CAA the “law of the country” and said, “It will be implemented. The CAA will be implemented before the elections…” The Home Minister – who led the government’s charge on this issue in both houses of Parliament – also dismissed concerns about the CAA and the NRC (National Register of Citizens) being used to target Muslims.

Indian culture is the soul of this country. Compassion, equality, love, tolerance, harmony, sacrifice, and altruism are the values of this culture. To rid the country of years-long suffering, the bill brought here nurtures the sentiment of the country’s constitution, enriching our cultural values. Our commitment to the linguistic, cultural, and social identity of the people of the North-Eastern states has been reiterated at various levels. The Citizenship Amendment Bill is not a favour; it is a rectification of the injustice of the past. It will protect the interests of those who have faith in Mother India. As Mohammad Ali Jinnah said in the Pakistan Parliament, Pakistan would be a secular democracy and a modern country. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a big lie.

Today’s law has been enacted to end the severe atrocities committed against minorities over the past few decades. Those who are opposing this law today seem to have forgotten that, in 2005, the UP government had referred to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission saying that violence was being committed against Hindus in Pakistan.

In 2007, 2010, and 2011, governments informed the House about the persecution of Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs. Similar information was also provided to the House regarding Bangladesh. It is necessary to look at its comprehensive and realistic context without resorting to narrow interpretations like Article 14.

According to a decision of the Supreme Court, the right to equality under Article 14 is extremely comprehensive. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that equal protection means equal treatment in similar circumstances. The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 was brought on extremely humanitarian grounds, and its main objective is to give justice to those oppressed minority communities who had no option but to come to India leaving their country. India has a long history of providing shelter to oppressed people. Whether it is providing shelter to Persian people or recently to the Tibetan community, India has always welcomed oppressed minorities from other countries.

It is worth noting that the amendment law is not only for the Hindu community but also for other minority communities such as Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. On September 26, 1947, Mahatma Gandhi made a public announcement in a prayer meeting. Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan can come to India from any perspective if they do not want to live there. In that situation, it is the first duty of the Indian government to provide them with jobs and normalise their lives.

Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan will not be considered illegal immigrants. They have been granted freedom. If there is any case against such minority immigrants related to illegal immigration or citizenship, then the case will be terminated by the provisions of this bill. There will be no need to face any legal process. After the rules were notified, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the architect of the CAA, posted on Twitter: “With this notification, PM Shri @NarendraModi ji has fulfilled another commitment and has made our constitution-makers promise to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians coming from those (neighbouring) countries a reality.”

(The Author is former Education Minister of India, and former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand)