Addressing the world conference of religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda said: “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.” A few decades down the line, M. S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, said: “They (non-Hindus) may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s rights.”
On December 11, the Parliament, entrance hall of which is engraved with the slogan vasudaivakudumbakam (the world is family), took a U-turn from the path of Vivekananda and strayed into Golwalkar’s path when it passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Brute majority has been used to bulldoze a Bill, through both Houses, which discriminates people on religion. The move to confer citizenship to all, except Muslims, who came from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to persecution is a clear indication that the nation under the present dispensation is moving towards the goal of Hindu Rashtra, vigorously propounded by the likes of Golwalkar and V. D. Savarkar.
The Bill, which faced stiff opposition from several parties, suffers from major lacunas. When the Constitution came into existence, religion was nowhere in the scheme of things in granting citizenship. The founding fathers of the Constitution were well aware that making religion a criterion for citizenship would militate against its basic structure as it would violate several provisions like Article 14 which prevents the State from denying any person equality before law. The Bill states that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from the three countries who came to India till December 31, 2014 will be granted citizenship. This selective segregation of people on the basis of religion is violative of Constitutional provisions. What about the Hindus and others persecuted in Sri Lanka and fleeing to India? Why doesn’t the Bill spare a thought about the Rohingya Muslims who faced a genocide and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar? Why not give citizenship to those fleeing Nepal and taking refuge in India? The argument that Muslims in Muslim majority countries do not face persecution falls flat if one looks at the Ahmadiya Muslims who are subjected to atrocious acts in Pakistan.
Thus, it becomes amply clear to any discerning mind that there is more to the CAB than meet the eyes. The cat is out of the bag when one looks at the uncertain fate of the few lakh Hindus left out of the utterly failed National Register of Citizens (NRC) implemented in Assam. The CAB is apparently brought in as a short cut measure to grant citizenship to them. The Bill, which will become an Act any time now, will work as a double-edged sword as it will enable the left-out Hindus to acquire citizenship while the left-out Muslims will be left in the lurch. The classification of some countries and communities on the basis of religion to grant citizenship is bound to fail the test of constitutionality in a court of law. The Bill has hit a new low in both domestic and international relations as seen in the ‘burning North-East’ and stinging reactions from abroad.(Published on 16th December 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 51)