Friday, December 20, 2019

Why Indians protest against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

Imagine 4 people who have fled a neighbor country of India, because they were persecuted in that country.  Now, they are living together in a small community in India.  A Shia who is targeted as anti-Muslim and blasphemous by the Sunni majority in that country, a Ahmediya who is now considered non-Muslim in his Islamic country, a Hindu, and a Sikh.  They have been living in India now for few years.  They have come to this country because this country has always taken pride in treating all its people equally irrespective of their religion.  Asaduddin Owaisi, one of the prominent Muslim politicians from India, boasts that nobody in Pakistan or Bangladesh should worry about Indian Muslims, because Indian Muslims have far better rights than Muslims living in those countries.  He goes further to say that unlike in those countries where one sect of Islam is treated as inferior, no such ill-treatment happens to any Islamic sect in India. 

Now, comes Citizenship Amendment Act, which says that it is going to treat these migrants differently, based on their religious identity, singling out Muslims.

Because of this Act, the Hindu friend and the Sikh friend become citizens in India, whereas the Shia friend and Ahmediya friend are now shipped off to a detention center.   It dawns up on all of us living in India, that all of a sudden, this country has started to deprive someone of their basic rights based on their religious identity, even though all of them came from same country of origin. 

To understand what it means.  Let’s create another scenario.  Indians migrate to US, settle there and become citizens there.  But imagine US passes an Act, which treats Indians differently based on their religion.  It opines, since Hindus are in majority in India, they are prosperous and well off and therefore do not need to migrate, and then they go about denying Green Card and Citizenship to Indian Hindus while naturalizing Muslims and Christians from India.  How would Indian Hindus feel?  Shouldn’t Indian Hindus protest? Shouldn’t Americans protest this egregious Act that discriminates people on religious identities?

The reason why so many people in India, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, across different religions, are protesting against this Act, is not because of the actual modalities of the Act.  It does not really matter if the Act affects only the immigrants or illegals and not the citizens.  What matters is that this Act allows for converting the State into saying, ‘you are special to me only if you are non-Muslim.  I will throw you out only because you are a Muslim’.  The fact that this nation has made a law that determines the eligibility of coming and living in this country, based on your religious identity, is very problematic to every Indian who has always believed in the basic tenets of Indian Constitution, that it is secular, and that it treats its people the same, whether they are Shia, Sunni, Ahmediya, Sufi, or Sikh, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Jain. 

The reason why so many Indians are perturbed by this Act is that for the first time ever, this nation has passed a law that will determine the legal status, citizenship status, and thereby according them the basic rights, based on religious identity. 

This is anathematic to all those Indians.  We rejected the model of Pakistan that constituted itself as a religious state.   Indians are genuinely upset.  Hindus who took pride that we have always been tolerant, Muslims who took pride that while other Islamic countries discriminate their own fellow Muslims based on the sects but India doesn’t, Sikhs who believe India is their home though they are a minority, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, all living with pride that this nation is truly pluralistic unlike any other nation on this planet, they all find this Act abhorrent, dangerous because its sets a new precedent, and completely unconstitutional because it violates the basic principles of equality on which this country was founded.