CAA-NRC ripping apart

CAA-NRC ripping apart India’s societal fabric

Iqbal Khan

India’s recent politico-legal actions like National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Supreme Court’s decision on Babri Masjid, revocation of Article 370 etc. are having telling effects on societal fabric of India. Entire World is watching the behaviour India’s State institutions with regard to a long overdue correction. On domestic side entire Indian society is out on streets to express its anger against State’s tyrannical actions.

Indian government is desperate in deflecting these domestic and international pressures. For this, reportedly, India is likely to conduct large scale false flag operations on or around its upcoming Republic Day, and blame these on Pakistan to shift the focus of domestic anguish and international concerns.

The unfolding crises in India is rooted in a long history of impunity and failed democratic institutions. Lynching of Muslims, Dalits and Christians have become so commonplace that they are often organised in the glare of social and mainstream media, such videos are made viral to radiate a sense of helplessness amongst the minorities. Indian government rarely holds the perpetrators accountable; rather State is often found patronising them.

Accountability continues to be a distant dream for the 2002 Gujarat massacres, during which mobs slaughtered 2,000 Muslims and displaced thousands; the anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984, in which mobs murdered 17,000 Sikhs across 40 cities with the support of the police and the ruling Congress Party; and perpetual gross Human Rights violations in Punjab and Kashmir, where security forces, as a matter of routine, engage in torture, unlawful killings, and enforced disappearances. The BJP is capitalising upon this historic perspective with a Hindutva nationalist agenda. BJP seeks to create a Hindu state, where Hindus enjoy a privileged status, and minorities are reduced to second-class citizens.

Journalists, lawyers and citizens who even notionally criticise the government are threatened, arrested, and assaulted. Indian government can unilaterally declare any person a terrorist without due process.

The Diplomat has reported in recent write-up captioned: “Indian State Challenges New Citizenship Law in Supreme Court”, that the government of Kerala argues the CAA violates India’s secular constitution. Kerala on January 14 became the first [provincial] government to legally challenge the new citizenship law that has triggered nationwide demonstrations.

State government accused the Union government of dividing the nation along communal lines. This law backed by Prime Minister NarendraModi’s Hindu-nationalist party provides a path to naturalization for people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, unless they’re Muslim. It has triggered nationwide protests and clashes with police, leading to over two dozen deaths.

The anti-CAA rallies have slowly morphed into much wider anti-government protests. Critics say the law, passed by Parliament on December 11, will be used in conjunction with a hypothetical citizenship registry that could require all Indians to produce documents proving their origins, a challenge in a country where many people lack official records including birth certificates. Kerala, ruled by a communist party, has strongly opposed the law and passed a resolution against it in early January. The state government criticized the law in front-page advertisements in at least three national newspapers on January 10, saying the state is “leading the efforts to protect constitutional values.” PinarayiVijayan, the chief minister of the state, has also written to the heads of 11 other states not ruled by Modi’s party, urging them to unite in their fight against the law.

West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has led several rallies in her state against the law. Punjab, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh states, which are governed by the opposition Congress party, have also announced they will not implement the legislation.

The law has also been rejected in Maharashtra, where Congress is part of a coalition government. Modi’s government insists, albeit wrongly, that the law is needed to help persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who came to India before 2015 by giving them Indian citizenship. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says state governments have the “constitutional duty” to implement the law.

The United States has pressed upon India to respect human rights. “We have urged Indian authorities to respect human rights and restore full access to services, including internet and mobile networks,” said Alice Wells, US acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs.

“We remain concerned by detention of political leaders and residents and Internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy”, Wells added.

A group of 35 female US lawyers of South Asian descent have issued a rare but strong statement, urging the American government to check India’s abuses of human rights in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country in dealing with protests over CAA and NRC. Wire reported: “We have grave concerns about the ongoing legal abuses and human rights atrocities occurring in India and Kashmir today”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has referred to the divisive CAA, as aimed at excluding approximately two million people of mostly Muslim origin, putting them at risk of being stateless. UN human rights spokesperson Jeremy Laurence added that CAA does not extend the same protection to Muslim migrants as to six other religious minorities fleeing persecution, thereby undermining India’s commitment to equality before the law, enshrined in its constitution. Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OCHRC) deems it “fundamentally discriminatory.” The NRC, the sister effort to CAA, is equally alarming; it is a policy of forced displacement.

The international community has a duty to perform beyond mundane lip service. Time has come for the UN, EU and other entities to invoke Human Rights related sanctions against India. UNHRC needs to act and form much awaited Commission of Inquiry as recommended by OCHRC.

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