By Aiman Afaque
Last week on 11th December 2019, Wednesday the president of India signed a controversial citizenship bill that has sparked heated debate and violence across the country, the epicenter being Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi. Here’s all you need to know about the bill and the protests.
What is in the bill?
The citizenship law better known as Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 grants citizenship to persecuted religious minorities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the neighboring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The cutoff date for the people to benefit from this law is 31 December 2014 meaning the applicant must have entered India on or before that date. The bill as it is, excludes Muslims from its above list of minorities. The illegal migrants according to the bill will be granted Indian citizenship in 6 years.
The Opposition Points
The bill violates the secular nature of the constitution by discriminating against various people on the basis of religion. It is also in the direct conflict of the Article 14 of the constitution, which states that:
“The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”
Another biggest opposition to the bill is that if it is really for the persecuted minorities then why is it not considering the Ahmadiyas, Shias sect who are not in majority and are regularly persecuted in the neighboring countries.
The protests at Jamia
The bill after becoming the act started a heated debate and protests among various sections of society including Muslims. One of the peaceful protests ongoing in Jamia Millia Islamia turned violent on Friday, 13th December 2019 after the police lathi-charged the protestors claiming that stones were thrown from the student side. After the dispersion, the students gathered again on Saturday and continued the protests peacefully for 2 days. The real trouble started on 15 December, Sunday. The protest march which started from Jamia Millia Islamia and was expected to end at Jantar Mantar peacefully turned violent in the evening. The reports claimed the protest was hijacked by the local goons. The police started lathi charging and used tear gas on the students. Soon after this, the police entered the university without Vice chancellor’s permission; forcefully used baton and teargas on the innocent students studying in the library. The video of this police brutality spread like wildfire and became viral on social media. It leads to widespread agitation by various student union bodies of different universities. Students of leading universities like Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Banaras Hindu University, Jadavpur University took out the solidarity march. After the violence in Jamia subsided police arrested 100 students who were later released after the students gathered and surrounded the police headquarter in Delhi ITO area demanding their immediate release.
The protest in Jamia University and the police cruelty caused a rippled effect and soon protests started elsewhere in the country including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and many more.
Uddhav Thackeray the chief minister of Maharashtra, whose party Shiv Sena supported the bill in the parliament compared the police crackdown on students at Jamia to Jallianwala Bagh massacre. BJP ally Ason Gana Parishad who earlier supported the bill did a u-turn and decided to move Supreme Court to exempt Assam from the CAA.
Why is Assam burning?
The most outrage seen in the North East is in Assam. There is fear that the illegal Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh if regularized, will threaten the cultural identity of the Assam. Four people were killed and many more were injured in the state during the protest, although the violence has subsided and life has started to return to normal in the state.
CAA and NRC go hand in hand
One of the questions that is being asked by the supporters of CAA is that why Indian Muslims are protesting? It has nothing to do with Indian Muslims living in India. Well, if you look at the act as such it seems so. But CAA cannot be looked at singly but should always be looked as a pair with NRC (National Register of Citizens). Now after the NRC the people who are not able to prove their citizenship through the legal documents will be deemed illegal whether Muslims or non-Muslims. But as per CAA all non-Muslims will be granted citizenship whether or not they have documents. Muslims on the other hand will still be illegal in their own country.
What is the current scenario?
The protests have spread like wildfire and are going everywhere in the country. Even the United Nations and other international bodies have condemned the act. Many Bollywood celebrities have spoken against the act.
Around 60 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in its hearing on 18th December 2019 has sent notice to the center and have announced 22nd January 2020 as the next day of the hearing.
The government has time and again made it clear that it won’t back down against the CAA and the law will be implemented come what may. But looking at the protests that are happening all over India and condemnation that it is receiving from international bodies the government is currently at the back foot and may have to think twice before it decides to take any big decision.