Opinion piece. Written by Vanya Doval, a grade 9 student.
Contrary to what the motivated opposition and the ill-informed, with severe cases of mob mentality contend, the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) is not an unconstitutional attempt at ethnic cleansing. It does not aim to demolish the stable and harmonious functioning of our society and snatch away the citizenship of Muslims. Neither does it seek to change the demography of Assam and pose a threat to its people’s livelihood, political destiny, cultural and linguistic identity by allowing an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants and bestowing citizenship upon them. What is CAA if not all these above mentioned labels?
The Citizenship Amendment Act is a law that proposes to grant fast-track citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh , who arrived in India before December 31st , 2014. This Act has faced severe opposition with protesters going as far to say that this amendment would not only mark the end of democracy in India but also snatch away the legal rights of several Muslims solely for their pledge to Islam. These arguments made by Opposition leaders and idealists from JNU are not only baseless but completely ill-informed and misleading. These lies have sparked hate in all parts of this country known for its diversity and tolerance. Not only has India taken a hit to it’s reputation because of these violent frenzy of protests, it has also been stabbed in the back by major strategic allies who have been forced under pressure from other nations to put out a statement of their disagreement with this Act .
Why, you may ask, do I so ardently defend this Act that seems so out of the realm and mental capacity of my young brain to grasp? I have several reasons for defending the CAA and the following are my arguments that tear holes in the opposition’s gripe against this Act.
This Act, has a special significance since it defends the same minorities from atrocities that several leaders and institutions across the world have raised their voice about. The US State Department published an International Religious Freedom Report in 2007 on Afghanistan that stated, “In the past, small communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians lived in the country; however, most members of these communities emigrated during years of civil war and Taliban rule. Most of the small Hindu and Sikh populations, which numbered at 50,000 persons, took refuge abroad during many years of conflict.” Afghanistan, according to a survey conducted by the Telegraph , is the least tolerant country in the world. Pakistan ranks at 18th and Bangladesh isn’t very far behind. The life of minorities in these countries are ones of misery, as former defense minister Rajnath Singh , pointed out. They are facing land-grabbing, attacks, forced conversions, kidnapping, rape, temple desecration and murder/ massacre on a rapidly rising basis. The most prominent reason for this seems to be theocracy’s domination of the systems in these 3 Islamic countries. There is an undemocratic structure of government and an arbitrary , selective justice system. Pakistan has struggled to keep its fragile democracy secure with almost four turbulent military coups in its 77 years of existence. Afghanistan has not seen democracy yet.
According to a survey of 39 Muslim majority countries done by Pew Research Center, 99% of Afghanistan, 84% of Pakistan and 82% of Bangladesh support sharia law as their official law. Sharia law, is a legal code derived from the Quran that calls non- Muslims kafirs ( Unlike what some rough translations say, it does not mean “unbeliever” . A kafir is not merely someone who does not agree with Islam , but a kafir is evil, disgusting and the lowest form of life. Kafirs can be tortured , killed, lied to and cheated .“Infidels” does not showcase the political reality of the way Muslims who agree with sharia law view non-Muslims.)
These figures are sufficient to state that there is no place for minorities in these countries. For those people opposing this law on the terms of racial bias against Muslim, all three of these countries recognize Islam as their state religion. The constitution requires the President or Head of State to belong to the state religion. Officials must swear allegiance to the principles of Islam in their oaths of office. Political parties’ charters must not run contrary to the principles of Islam and the Ulema Council, a group of influential Islamic scholars, imams, jurists, meets regularly with government officials to advise on legislation. Other than this, there are 27 countries who designate Islam as their state religion. If Muslims face persecution they have several countries that would happily offer them refuge, special status and even extra rights solely because of their religion. Whereas, these six persecuted minorities have no where else to go and no one else to turn to for refuge. India, with its strong core values is offering a safe haven to these minorities. The exclusion of Muslims is not to punish / discriminate against them but to give citizenship to the people who cannot get refuge in any other country due to legal restrictions. Only India, who has social and cultural ties with these 3 countries can give these religious minorities the life of dignity and respect that they deserve.
According to the 1951 census ,the first census of independent India , the composition of Muslims was 9.8% which was roughly 35.4 million people. 77 years later, that percentage has gone up to 14.2% which means 172 million people identifying as adherents of Islam (2011 census). On the other hand, newly partitioned Pakistan was composed of 14% Hindus. The most recent survey shows that figure has dropped down to 1.6% of the total population. Various causes like religious violence and forced conversions are attributed as the reason for the decline of minorities. Brutal massacre with no regard of their human rights also seems to be a detrimental reason. Around 1000 girls belonging to religious minorities are estimated to be forcibly made to convert or marry muslims every year , according to human rights NGOs. Several persons belonging to minorities are persecuted on a large scale under the vague Blasphemy law that is part of Pakistan’s penal code. The law states that whoever “defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” This unclear law has often been used to level false accusations at people from religious minorities. Victims are often presumed guilty due to the law saying that they can be convicted without substantive evidence. According to the 2012 US Commision on Internationl Freedom (USCIRF) annual report,” The government of Pakistan continues to engage in and tolerate systematic , ongoing and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.” A survey carried out by All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement also found out that out of the 428 Hindu temples in Pakistan since 1947, only 20 survive. These facts prove that Pakistan severely oppresses minorities, especially Hindus, with whom they have a severe rivalry . These people are not safe in these countries . They are being abducted, their women raped and sold off as slaves, their children being forced to convert, their homes being burnt, their places of worship destroyed and anybody who dares to resist is being brutally and inhumanely murdered and mutilated. By arguing over the details and irrelevant issues surrounding this topic , we are delaying justice and safety to these minorities. Why are we letting politics and embarrassing the government getting in the way of saving the lives of millions of innocents ?
These human-rights violations have gained international attention. In September 2018, Global Human Right Defence (GHRD) organized a protest in Geneva outside the United Nations Office to raise international awareness of the plight of the persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan. These problems have often been raised in US Congress. Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard in 2016 said in the house ,” In Bangladesh, discrimination and deadly violence against atheists, secularists, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious minorities have unfortunately become a regular occurrence. This underscores the absolute necessity of not only defeating this global wave of intolerance, but standing up and fighting for the right of others to freely express their views regardless of whether you agree with those views or not.” Not only Afghanistan and Pakistan, but even Bangladesh has also gone to inhumane lengths to convert people to it’s state religion Islam.
The resistance of the Assamese people can also be uncovered as a misguided movement , sparked by the Opposition with it’s anti- Modi agenda, to save their state from an influx of immigrants. Unlike the dissidents in the national capital, the north-eastern people don’t want any immigrants who were not approved by the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) of 1971 to be granted Indian citizenship. The people of Assam feel this new law will allow thousands of Hindus from Bangladesh to swamp indigenous communities, burdening their resources and threatning their cultural identity. What these protesters fail to realize is that the Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will insulate Assam from the adverse effects of the CAA. Clause 6 of the Assam Accord relates to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. Aside from this , the Central government has promised to install several other mechanisms to prevent a change in the demography of Eastern India.
Hence, I feel that CAA is an attempt to rescue and provide safety to millions of torured and persecuted minorities. It has been gravely misunderstood by the gossipmongers and chaos-loving people of India. CAA does not snatch citizenship away from any citizen. Nor is it going to make Muslims second class citizens. The aim of this Amendment Act is to use India’s budding power for good, to protect the weak ,persecuted minorities of other countries. Not to persecute our own minorities and make them feel insecure about their existence and place in this country. All the hate that is being spread is a desperate , last ditch effort of the Opposition to reduce Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s integrity, credibility and public support. This attempt to tarnish the BJP’s reputation and showcase them as authoritarian destroyers of democracy is not only shallow , but also harmful to India’s economy and standing in the world. It is vital that we recognize these lies and do not let politics come in the way of giving refuge to the persecuted minorities. The simple fact that rioting people are ignoring is that equal rights for somebody else does not mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.
Written by Vanya Doval.
Vanya is an extremely well-read and politically aware student of grade 9. She loves to write on socio-political issues.
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