The News – Anti-Muslim legislation: Do not go to India, UK and USA tell citizens

Guwahati – Assam – India, 15 December 2019. Protests against a divisive new citizenship law raged on Saturday as Washington, London and Paris issued travel warnings for northeast India following days of violent clashes that have left two people dead.

Many in the far-flung, resource-rich northeast fear the new legislation will grant citizenship to a large number of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, who they accuse of stealing jobs and diluting the region’s cultural identity.

Several thousand protesters rallied in the capital New Delhi on Saturday evening, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s government to revoke the law, some holding signs reading: “Stop Dividing India”.

“People are not gathered here as Hindus, or Muslims, people are gathered here as citizens of India. We reject this bill that has been brought by the Modi government and we want equal treatment as enshrined in our constitution,” said protester Amit Baruah, 55, a journalist.

The protests turned violent in the West Bengal state, a hotbed of political unrest, with at least 20 buses and parts of two railway stations set on fire as demonstrators blocked roads and set fire to tyres. No injuries were reported.

Tensions also simmered in Guwahati in Assam state, the epicentre of the unrest, where medical staff said two people were shot dead and 26 hospitalised late Thursday after security forces fired live rounds.

On Friday, a funeral procession of 18-year-old Sam Stafford, who was killed in the firing, was attended by hundreds of angry and distraught mourners who shouted, “long live Assam”. “We were watching news all day on TV about the protests when my nephew left home in the evening. We asked him not to go out but he went with his friends,” the student’s aunt Julie Stafford told AFP.

Anticipating further unrest, authorities extended an internet ban across Assam till Monday. Most of the shops were shut and anxious residents stocked up supplies on Saturday when the curfew was relaxed during the day.

The Citizenship Amendment Act allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities including Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but not Muslims. Samujjal Bhattacharya from the All Assam Students Union, which has been at the forefront of the protests, told AFP the group would continue its fight against the new law “in the streets and in the court”.

Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe postponed a summit that was reportedly due to be held in Guwahati from today (Sunday), and the United States and Britain warned their nationals to “exercise caution” if travelling to the wider northeast region. The Islamic groups, the opposition and rights organisations say the law is a part of Modi´s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India´s 200 million Muslims.

He denies this and says that Muslims from the three countries are not covered by the legislation because they have no need of India´s protection. Modi´s right-hand man Amit Shah on Saturday sought to reassure the northeastern states, saying the government would protect their “culture, social identity, language and political rights”.

Assam has long been a hotbed of ethnic tensions. In 1983 some 2,000 people, mainly Bengali Muslims, were butchered in what became known as the Nellie massacre. This year a citizenship registry left off 1.9 million people, many of them Muslims, unable to prove that they or their forebears were in Assam before 1971, leaving them to face possible statelessness.

“There has been this agitation (against) illegal migration from Bangladesh over many years,” Sanjoy Hazarika, a professor at Delhi´s Jamia Millia Islamia University, told AFP. “They feel that their rights to land, to jobs, and the entire social fabric education, existing social services and so on will be impacted by this.”

On Friday university students in Delhi clashed with police, who used batons and tear gas shells to quell the protests. Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress party has called the law “an attempt to ethnically cleanse the northeast”.

So far, France, Israel, US and the UK have issued travel advisories for nationals travelling to India in view of the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. In a statement issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the United Kingdom has urged visitors to the northeast to avoid “all but essential” travel and “monitor local media” for the latest information about the circumstances around them.

The UK also asked citizens to avoid all travel to Kashmir, Ladakh and all areas (except Wagah) near the border with Pakistan. The US also asked citizens to “exercise caution” in the context of protests and violence against the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). “The US government has temporarily suspended official travel to Assam,” the US has announced.

The French and Israeli governments have also urged their citizens to stay alert while travelling in India. The advisories were issued after the office of the High Commissioner of UN Human Rights body expressed concern saying that the CAB was “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.

Meanwhile Amnesty International said the CAB passed by the Indian Parliament legitimises discrimination on the basis of religion and stands in clear violation of both the constitution of India and international human rights law. The bill amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to enable irregular migrants to acquire Indian citizenship through naturalisation and registration.

However, it restricts the eligibility to only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before 31 December, 2014. The bill also reduces the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to five years for these particular communities.

Besides adversely impacting the refugees and asylum seekers, the amendments also impact the human rights of Indian citizens – particularly Muslims.

Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty India, said: “The Government of India denies any form of discrimination, but the amendments clearly weaponise the NRC process against Muslims. “It is difficult to view the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in isolation and not look at the larger picture where both the amendments and the NRC may deprive minorities of their citizenship in India.

The amendments also set a dangerous shift in the way citizenship will be determined in India. Worryingly, they also stand to create the biggest statelessness crisis of the world causing immense human suffering,” said Kumar, adding: “Welcoming asylum seekers is a positive step, but in a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear-mongering and bigotry.”

Meanwhile, a Muslim lawmaker from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, Asaduddin Owaisi, on Saturday filed a petition in the country’s Supreme Court against the CAB. Owaisi, the head of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), vociferously opposed the bill in the lower house of parliament during the debate and even tore its pages on the floor of the house.

“AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act,” a local news gathering agency quoted Owaisi’s lawyer Nizam Pasha as having said. Owaisi alleged the bill was aimed at making Muslims “stateless” and warned it would lead to another partition in India.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/583741-anti-muslim-legislation-do-not-go-to-india-uk-us-tell-citizens

Sikh24.com – British Army delegation pays obeisance at Sri Harmandr Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 December 2019. On December 11, a delegation of British Army comprising Brigadier Jen Harvey, Colonel John Candle, Captain Krez Bikertan, Captain Jagjit Singh and Warrant Officer Ashok Chauhan paid obeisance at sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Notably, these delegation members had come to India for attending a seminar organized at Khalsa College in the memory of Saragarhi martyrs by the Saragarhi Foundation (New York).

These delegation members also met the officiating Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh at Akal Takht secretariat where they were honored with Siropas (robes of honor).

They also paid obeisance at Gurdwara Saragarhi Sahib situated on the way leading to Sri Harmandr Sahib.

SGPC’s executive member Jagsir Singh Mangeana, Chief Secretary Dr Roop Singh, Secretary Avtar Singh Sainpla, Sri Harmandir Sahib’s Manager Jaswinder Singh Deenpur, Chairman of Saragarhi Foundation Gurinderpal Singh Josan, President Kuldeep Singh Kahlon, Taranbir Singh Benipal, Bibi Kamaljit Kaur Pannu, Additional Managers Sukhraj Singh and Iqbal Singh Mukhi, Jaspal Singh, SGPC’s Information Officer Amritpal Singh etc. were also present on this occasion.

British Army delegation pays obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib

Leuven: Rector De Somerplein – Leuven NMBS

Rector De Somerplein
02 December 2019


Standaard Boekhandel


All buses to Leuven NMBS

Leuven NMBS
02 December 2019


IC train to Brussel and Blankenberge via Gent


Desiro ML train


S2 to Leuven from ‘s Gravenbrakel


There is my train to Gent, pulled by a Siemens engine 

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Published in: on December 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

OFMI – Minorities infuriated by India’s new Citizenship Bill plan California rally

Californians stand in solidarity with millions protesting in India against CAB

Santa Clara – California – USA. 14 December 2019. Indian minorities infuriated by India’s recent passage of a controversial citizenship bill that excludes Muslims will rally against it on December 15 in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.

“The Citizenship Amendment Bill passed this week foretells a fatal blow to a secular society in India,” warns Arvin Valmuci of Organization for Minorities of India. “CAB opens the door for a full-scale persecution of all minorities in India.

It will soon be followed by a national law banning religious conversion, which will impact Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and all others as it outlaws religious freedom. Millions in India are taking to the streets to protest the CAB Act.

We call upon all soul mates around the world to rally to save India’s soul and hope many will join us to stand against CAB on Sunday.”

The CAB Act, explained Human Rights Watch, “discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law.” It provides a swift path to citizenship only for non-Muslim irregular immigrants. On Dec. 9, the US Commission on International Freedom stated, “CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion.”

The group recommends sanctions on Indian politicians responsible for passing the bill.

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee also spoke out against CAB, stating, “Religious pluralism is central to the foundations of both India and the United States and is one of our core shared values. Any religious test for citizenship undermines this most basic democratic tenet.”

On 13 December the UN Human Rights Office denounced the bill as “fundamentally discriminatory,” explaining, “The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution and India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which Indian is a State party, which prohibit discrimination based on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.”

Protests against CAB are currently expanding across most of India. Five states, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Panjab, and West Bengal, have announced their refusal to implement the law.

In response to protests in India’s northeast, where pushback is most intense, India has shut down internet in four states. “This makes India the internet shutdown capital of the world,” reported CNN on Dec. 14. “The world’s biggest democracy leads in digital authoritarianism, and by some margin.”

“The CAB Act is a key part of the ruling BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda,” Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs, told OFMI. “Annexing Kashmir and securing judicial approval to build a temple on the same site where a mob violently demolished a mosque were long-standing BJP demands achieved in the past few months.

The BJP’s next goal is a National Register of Citizens that requires every resident of India to prove their citizenship. Combined with CAB, the NRC provides a legal route for the BJP, and the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary that controls it — to begin cleansing the land of all non-Hindus.”

In California, anti-CAB protestors will rally at the Civic Center Park in Santa Clara, CA at 4pm on Sunday, December 15.

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.

Visit

www.OFMI.org

Scroll.in – Narayana Murthy’s son-in-law, Priti Patel among 15 Indian-origin winners in UK election

The Conservatives secured a sweeping victory, winning more than 360 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons on Friday.

London – UK, 14 December 2019. Fifteen Indian-origin candidates across both Conservative and Labour party won in the United Kingdom’s General Election on Friday, PTI reported.

The Conservatives secured a sweeping victory, winning more than 360 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons – the party’s largest majority since under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel won a comfortable majority and is likely to remain in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Cabinet. “This has been a hard-fought election in a very cold time of the year because we needed a functioning Conservative majority,” said Patel, who polled 32,876 votes at her Witham constituency in Essex and held on to a majority of 24,082 for the party.

“We are committed to deliver on priorities and getting Brexit done is a priority,” she added. “The deal is there, we want to move forward.”

Rishi Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy, also secured a resounding victory with 36,693 votes, marking a majority for the Tories of 27,210. The 39-year-old has been the MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, since 2015.

Former International Development Secretary Alok Sharma won 24,393 votes from Reading West. Former minister Shailesh Vara retained his seat in North West Cambridgeshire by 25,983 votes.

Suella Braverman, a Conservative MP from Goa, won from Fareham constituency and received 36,459 votes. “Great teamwork in the rain, the cold and the dark,” she tweeted after the results. “All patriots who want to get Brexit done with Boris Johnson.”

Gagan Mohindra and Claire Coutinho of the Conservative party, Navendru Mishra of the Labour party and Munira Wilson of the Liberal Democrats were among the first-time winners.

Sikh MPs Preet Kaur Gill and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi were re-elected from Birmingham Edgbaston and Slough in south-east England, respectively.

Labour’s Virendra Sharma won comfortably from Ealing Southall seat with 25,678 votes. He has held the seat since 2007 General Elections and was expected to win.

Lisa Nandy won Wigan seat with 21,042 votes and Seema Malhotra clinched Feltham and Heston with 24,876 votes.

How big will Modi’s influence be on the Boris Johnson government ? Boris has already stated that he was pro-Modi to enhance the Conservative vote.
Man in Blue

https://scroll.in/latest/946827/narayana-murthys-son-in-law-priti-patel-among-15-indian-origin-winners-in-uk-election

The Statesman – Farooq Abdullah’s detention under PSA extended by 3 months

The Centre had earlier while justifying the imposition of restrictions on Kashmir post-05 August, told the Supreme Court that political leaders in Kashmir instigated an uprising propagating anti-India sentiments through several public speeches.

New Delhi – India, 14 December 2019. The detention of Farooq Abdullah, a three-term chief minister of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, was extended on Saturday under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) by three months and he would continue to remain at his residence that has been declared a sub-jail, officials said here.

Abdullah, a five-time Parliamentarian, has been under detention since 05 August when the Centre abrogated special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state.

PSA was first slapped against him on September 17, hours before the Supreme Court was to hear a petition by MDMK leader Vaiko who claimed that the NC leader was detained illegally.

Farooq Abdullah’s detention under PSA extended by 3 months

The Tribune – ‘Any history of SAD has to be critical of Badals’

Jupinderjit Singh

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 15 December 2019. From a mass movement of the Sikhs having representatives from all parts of Punjab and even abroad, the Shiromani Akali Dal is now a party controlled by one family only, says historian G S Dhillon, echoing the viewpoint of a number of distinguished members of the community who have watched and commented on the party from close quarters for long.

As the Akali Dal enters its centenary year, Dr Prithipal Singh Kapur, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University and an eminent historian, terms the year-long anniversary celebrations “mere means to divert attention of the Sikhs from the real issues confronting the Panth”.

‘Compromises made to stay in power’

Parkash Singh Badal was the first political careerist in the party. When it becomes a career, many compromises are made to stay in power. A party which was against Mahants and deras supported these very groups to get votes. The result is before us. This has resulted in mushrooming of many Akali Dals.

Dr Prithipal Singh Kapur, former Pro-VC, GNDU

“The party has for the last several years focussed on rituals, but failed to rise to the challenge when incidents of sacrilege happened, or when the controversial pardon to Dera Sacha Sauda chief was planned. Most recently, it failed to counter effectively when the verdict on Ayodhya mentioned Sikhism as a cult of Hindus,” he says.

Akali Dal “may not survive the way it is now, but there will always be a group representing the interest of the Sikh community, especially in the present condition in the country where a group like the Akali Dal can prevent the ongoing onslaught on minorities in the country”, he adds.

Party is face of the Sikh to the world’

Shiromani Akali Dal represents the face of the Sikh to the world. The grit of the Sikhs to revolt against any form of injustice, during ‘lehars’(movements), led to the formation of the Akali Dal. Despite conceding to the Indian form of democracy, the Akali Dal has always stood for getting a greater share of power to the states. The party has always argued for a federal structure of government.

Jagmeet Brar, former MP

Veteran journalist and author Jagtar Singh Sandhu says the party has had many high points of contribution, only to reach a dismal low now. “The journey is aptly described as from Golden Temple to Chandigarh. The party came into being because of Sikh religion but when it closed its office in Golden Temple and shifted base to Chandigarh, it reflected the change away from the core Sikh issues.”

People used to own Akali Dal as their own, recalls Sandhu. “All morchas began from their office in Amritsar and yet it was done away with.”

The party Constitution, he points out, says its topmost agenda is protection of Sikh religion and objectives of the community. “The SAD came into being as a youth wing of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for fighting for control of Sikh places of worship, which in 1920 were controlled by Mahants. Today, the SAD controls the SGPC and even the Jathedars.”

The worst turn, he adds, came when “party patriarch Parkash Singh Badal summoned three Jathedars to his house for the pardon to the Sirsa Dera chief, a move that triggered the biggest crisis for the party, from which it is yet to come out”.

Professor J S Grewal, a well-known historian and classmate of Parkash Singh Badal, has seen the party from close quarters. The party wanted him to pen a book on the SAD’s history, but never released the book. “My book was not to praise anyone, but to write the real history. For that, truth has to be told. No history of the Akalis can be written without criticism of the role of the Badals,” he says.

A former Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Professor Grewal emphaises that there is no democracy in the Akali Dal now. “It is a party of one family: all powers are wrested with the Badal family.”

Dr Kapur points out that the Akali Dal was a movement for safeguarding the Sikh Panth but after the emergence of Badal, it became a party of career politicians.

Professor Grewal also feels that owing to changes in the party, many independent-minded leaders quit. “Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is the only one left,” he says.

Bir Devinder Singh, a senior leader of SAD (Taksali), feels the Sikhs are still in search of their ultimate destiny as per the ethos of the Sikh faith, but the Akali leadership has failed miserably to come to the expectation of the Sikh community as a whole, and failed and fumbled every time it was expected to resolve decisively.

As the Shiromani Akali Dal marked its 99th foundation day on Saturday, a parallel event was organised by the rebel Akalis, and their theme revolved around “an Akali Dal without the Badals”. That’s easier said than done. As patriarch Parkash Singh Badal reiterates: “We are the Shiromani Akali Dal. Period.”

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/%E2%80%98any-history-of-sad-has-to-be-critical-of-badals%E2%80%99-11088

Leuven: Heilige Drievuldigheidscollege – Grote Markt

Heilige Drievuldigheidscollege 
Oude Markt, Leuven
Both my potia go to school here
02 December 2019

Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) visits the school


Arashdeep Kaur on the left


A better picture !


Opa Harjinder Singh dancing with Arashdeep’s teacher


Trying to do something complicated that did not quite work !


Opa, Saint Nicholas, Arash’s friend and Arash

Leuven Grote Markt
02 December 2019


Sint-Pieterskerk

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pieter Friedrich – BJP rams through Hindu nationalist agenda with blitzkrieg speed

Grim week concludes grim year after Citizenship Amendment Bill Passed

It’s been a grim year for India as the BJP rams through its Hindu nationalist agenda with blitzkrieg speed.

After Modi was re-elected, he wasted no time in implementing the BJP’s long-standing demands. That includes:

  1. Enacting the National Register of Citizens in Assam and building detention centers to house people who are newly-made stateless.
  2. Scrapping Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, stripping the only Muslim-majority state in India of its semi-autonomous status, and revoking its statehood.
  3. Giving a green light to build Ram Mandir on disputed land in Ayodhya, and handing over the rights to do so to the same people responsible for the violent demolition of the mosque that once stood on that site.

A grim week concludes this grim year.

Modi’s regime just passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The CAB bill makes religion the basis for Indian citizenship and marks India’s transition to a religious state.

The BJP’s next goal is to implement the National Register of Citizens across the whole country. This puts all residents of India in the position of having to prove their citizenship.

CAB and NRC combined provide a legal route for the BJP to begin cleansing the land of Muslims, and, ultimately, of all non-Hindus.

That is the goal of the BJP, and the Nazi-inspired RSS paramilitary that controls it.

One of the final nails in the coffin of Indian secularism will be a national anti-conversion law, a law requiring people to receive government permission to change their religion, thus criminalizing freedom of religion.

In these grim times, hope is the one thing we must never give up no matter how hopeless the situation seems.

Stay filled with hope — even blind, stupid, irrational hope.

Because we know the reality.

We know Hitler always loses.

Jo Hitler ka raj karega, vo Hitler ki maut marega.

Those who rule like Hitler will meet Hitler’s end.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at :

www.pieterfriedrich.net

The Hindu – In the name of a majority

The NRC in Assam has given us an indication of risks involved in such exercises of inclusion and exclusion

Anupama Roy

Op/Ed, 13 December 2019. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), passed in both Houses this week, promises to give the protection of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While religious persecution is a reasonable ground for protection, the problem with the CAB is that it does not include all communities that suffered religious persecution, and explicitly excludes Muslims who suffered persecution in the specified countries and other non-Muslim majority countries like Myanmar.

This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country. In addition, such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950, embodying the idea of a people who committed themselves, and those governing on their behalf, to a constitutional order.

Those in support of the CAB have rallied around the argument that it is non-discriminatory and its objectives are justifiable. In doing so, they have often invoked the moral imperative of correcting a perceived past wrong, in this case the Partition. In the process, the CAB changes completely the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.

Changes in citizenship law

The CAB cannot, however, be seen in isolation. It must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and other changes in the citizenship law, which have preceded it. The Home Minister and the Law Minister have clarified that the CAB and the NRC are distinct, the NRC protects the country against illegal migrants and the CAB protects refugees.

This, however, is incommensurate with the election speeches made by BJP leaders. For instance, speaking in Kolkata earlier this year, Amit Shah had promised an NRC in West Bengal, but only after the passage of the CAB to ensure that no Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugee is denied citizenship for being an illegal immigrant.

In a triumphal note after the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah declared that a nationwide NRC would follow soon.

Despite their seemingly disparate and adversarial political imperatives, the CAB and the NRC have become conjoined in their articulation of citizenship. Indeed, the two represent the tendency towards ‘jus sanguinis’ in the citizenship law in India, which commenced in 1986, became definitive in 2003, and has reached its culmination in the contemporary moment.

In 2003, the insertion of the category ‘illegal migrants’ in the provision of citizenship by birth became the hinge from which the NRC and the CAB later emerged.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 made the registration of all citizens of India, issue of national identity cards, the maintenance of a national population register, and the establishment of an NRC by the Central government compulsory.

Under these rules, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration is to collect particulars of individuals and families, including their citizenship status, through a ‘house-to-house enumeration’.

In an exception to the general rule, Assam has followed a different procedure of ‘inviting applications’ with particulars of each family and individual and their citizenship status based on the NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971.

The purpose of the NRC is to sift out ‘foreigners’ and ‘illegal migrants’, who were referred to at different points as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘aggressors’, and a threat to the territory and people of India.

Exempting minority groups

The second strand emerging from the 2003 amendment has taken the form of the CAB, which exempts ‘minority communities’, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, from three countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, from the category of ‘illegal migrants’.

The CAB brings the citizenship law in line with exemptions already made in the Passport Act 1920 and Foreigners Act 1946 through executive orders in September 2015 and July 2016. It sets a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 as the date of eligibility of illegal migrants for exemption.

It must be noted that a PIL filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha pending before the Supreme Court has contested the deviation in the cut-off date set for Assam by the Citizenship Amendment Act 1986, March 24, 1971, from the date specified in Article 6 of the Constitution, i.e., July 19, 1948, which applies to the rest of the country.

The CAB is applicable to entire India, and takes the cut-off date forward by several years.

The claim that the CAB does not violate the Constitution is reflective of the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC was advised by constitutional experts to use a broader category, ‘persecuted minorities’, to protect the Bill from the charge of violating the right to equality in Article 14.

The CAB uses the category ‘minority communities’ and goes on to identify them on the ground of religion. The notifications of September 2015 and July 2016, which changed the Passport and Foreigners Acts, had mentioned the term ‘religious persecution’.

The consideration of religious persecution for making a distinction among persons, the JPC argued, could not be discriminatory, because the distinction was both intelligible and reasonable, satisfying the standards laid down in the Supreme Court judgment in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkarhabib (1952) to affirm adherence to Article 14.

Test of reasonableness

The JPC appears, however, to have overlooked the substantive conditions that the Supreme Court laid down in the same verdict. These require that the criteria of intelligibility of the differentia and the reasonableness of classification, must satisfy both grounds of protection guaranteed by Article 14, i.e., protection against discrimination and protection against the arbitrary exercise of state power.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court judgement in Naz Foundation vs Government of NCT of Delhi referred to “a catena of decisions” to lay down a further test of reasonableness, requiring that the objective for such classification in any law must also be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The restraint on state arbitrariness, according to the judgment, was to come from constitutional morality, which as B R Ambdkar declared in the Constituent Assembly, was the responsibility of the state to protect.

It remains a puzzle as to why the government wishes to change the citizenship law to address the problem of refugees. The JPC refers to standard operating procedures for addressing the concerns of refugees from neighbouring countries.

In the case of refugees from the erstwhile West Pakistan who deposed before the JPC in favour of a CAB, the standard operating procedure was the grant of long-term visas leading to citizenship.

One wonders how these refugees will benefit from a law which will put them through an arduous process of proving religious persecution. Immediately after Partition, ‘displaced persons’ constituted an administrative category, and citizenship files of 1950s tell us how district officials expedited their citizenship in the process of preparation of electoral rolls.

The focus in the recent parliamentary debates, for various reasons, was the eastern borders. States in the region have resisted the CAB, and simultaneously asked for an NRC. West Bengal has been an exception. The reality of imposing a national order of things, through a CAB and an NRC, in non-national spaces will unfold in future but Assam has given us adequate evidence of the risks involved.

It can only be hoped that the judiciary and civil society are able to restore constitutional and democratic politics through an exercise of counter-majoritarian power in a context where electoral gains have determined political choices.

Anupama Roy teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/in-the-name-of-a-majority/article30289562.ece?homepage=true