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CAA protests: Using manufactured dissent to shout down the persecuted

By Subh Kirti

In the the following proviso shall be inserted, namely:— "Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;".

Citizenship Act, 1955 in section 2, in sub-section (1), in clause (b)

The Parliament of India has formulated a way to provide long due relief to persecuted minorities already residing in India through the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (hereby CAA). This act, as mentioned in the manifesto of the BJP, the ruling party, delivers on the promise to rectify the historical wrongs of Partition of India. However, a new kind of resistance to this humanitarian law has raised questions on the nature of dissent in a democracy. The organizers of these protests are propagating hate through the argument that the law is based on religion and that, it is against the Constitution of India. The next argument is that this is an anti-Muslim act, as it singles out people having Islam as a religion from attaining citizenship. This article contests both these claims and attempts to uncover the structural module operating with the motive to destabilize Indian society.

This article argues that using the social constructivist paradigm we can understand the nature of relationship between religion and law, and, that it is nothing more than hypocrisy for a nation state to remain dormant when religious persecution of minorities is rampant in its neighborhood. Indian government has always followed a balanced approach towards religion and even the ideal type of secularism (Anglo-Saxon) in international politics is itself based on religious principles.

The second argument is that mere absence of a particular community from an act of Parliament cannot be religious exclusion, particularly when the act is as narrow and specific in scope as the CAA 2019. Religion can not be a tool of exclusion, but it shall, if circumstances prevail, be a tool of inclusive policy regimes. Both these arguments will be deliberated in detail in this article.

A comprehensive reading of the CAA, explains modalities and circumstances under which persecuted minorities of three neighbouring states shall be granted Indian citizenship, if at all, they do not contradict the basic features of the Citizenship Act 1955 (the principle act). However this article will focus on the social construction of sponsored protests for electoral and sectarian gains by radical and fundamentalist organizations using modern day methods of crowd management and monetary transfer to different regions.

Religion, State and International Law

Religion and state have a two-faced relationship. There are significant positive contributions of religion on state and international law as outlined in the literature of Suarez, Vitoria and Grotius. All of them have mentioned how religion is an inevitable part of institutional process to establish values, organizations and treaties in a troubled Europe. Religion has also played an important role in the generation of universalistic norms (ending the thirty year war) with regard to citizenship, treatment of refugees (principle of non-refoulement) and solving religious conflicts (protestant and catholic violent clashes). India has, in fact, contributed to stop ethnic cleansing of religious minorities by formulating the CAA, 2019. This follows the same international principle instituted after the Westphalian consensus. India is using sovereignty to serve humanity. The CAA has helped people who were suffering because of their religious identity, because their state followed privileges and penalties based on the same.

Why CAA Was Needed

The CAA is an active law starting positive policy framework, neither the act nor the policies exclude Muslims from attaining Indian citizenship. Its sole purpose is to create legal sanction to facilitate religious minorities live a dignified life in a multicultural society. No law, provision, instrument or policy in India stops Muslims from attaining citizenship under the whole umbrella of laws and regulation. The author argues that, absence is not exclusion. Not mentioning Muslims in the CAA is a logical policy choice, while realizing that no Indian Muslim will have any impact from the act in question. No provision under the constitution or the CAA mentions that Muslims can not be persecuted or apply for citizenship under international law on grounds of persecution. It is simply a legal and logistical provision to expedite the process to grant just and human living condition to minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Manufactured Protests

The construction of dissent in recent times has been a top bottom phenomenon in India. In the absence of traditional electoral issues like corruption, caste and minority appeasement, a new methodology is in operation. This occasional and geographically limited protest attempts to attract international media attention by the strategy the author calls “HATE- MISTRUST-VOILENCE”. This is an elaborate strategy to make India apologetic at the international level, by convincing like-minded liberal-corporate lobbies across the world that some sections of the society hate others (depending upon the issue in hand the stakeholders change). In the case of CAA it is the Muslim conventional vote bank which has been targeted.

Mistrust is perhaps the most significant feature of manufacturing a protest. Much like the anarchists, the protagonists of CAA protests question the credibility of all institutions, be it Parliament, the Supreme Court or the government. However with each passing day, truth about CAA is reaching the masses and the Indian media has done revelations about sinister motives of those involved.

Violence is being portrayed as a legitimate tool by fanatic and separatist elements. This has direct inspiration from the pseudo-communist Naxal movements in India. The Urban-Naxal lobby which has lost its economic dividend due to uprooting of Naxalism in the hinterland and responsive economic governance on foreign funds are desperate to reclaim their share in the luteyans pie. However by attacking Hindu temples in Phulwari Sharif, Patna and attacking Hindu settlements in Uttar Pradesh, proved that this is not about CAA, but reinventing the “Theory of Incompatibility”, which helped vote bank politics for decades.

The Indian Union government has handled these issues with caution and patience. Even when violence broke out, the government took steps to ensure that it does not escalate. This is the reason why, the anti-CAA monolithic protest has remained urban and localized.

What the Future Holds- Some Suggestions

Eminent Muslim intellectuals like Shri Arif Mohammad, Shiraz Quereshi, Dr. Imran Chaudhary along with thousands of others have raised their voice against break India forces. This goes to show that a false consensus will not be able to hold India hostage. These intellectuals have generated a gradual and continues consensus among social circles about utility of CAA as a humanitarian measure.

As a state, the Indian government can focus on a three-fold strategy.

The social measure to put the nation and national interest first and religion second, should be executed. This can be a medium to long term strategy under which education will play a great role. Second, is the fundamental administrative commitment to establish rule of law. Peaceful protests and dissent are welcomed in a democracy. However, violence should be treated as a threat to peace and stability of the society.

Another innovative solution to unite people can be the universal basic income (UBI). This will emphasize the unity in diversity feature of Indian democracy, citizens from all religion, caste and creed, regions can be united by this welfare measure.

(Author is PhD Research Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University)



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