CAB Not Based On Religious Intolerance, Has Nothing To Do With India’s Muslims

Author - Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda

Posted on - 23 December 2019

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CAB is about religious minorities facing persecution in three theistic neighbouring countries. Almost all of them are populations that were part of pre-independence India, now stranded in nations that had falsely promised them protection.

The Modi 2.0 goverment’s stunning series of legislative changes did not end with the commemoration of its six months in office last month. Following the amendments to Triple Talaq and Article 370, and the Supreme Court’s long awaited verdict on Ayodhya, the Citizenship Amendment Bill has stirred the same kind of response.

Almost on cue, left-liberal circles have reacted with apoplectic rage and a variety of accusations, including outlandish claims of the end of democracy. This last is odd, considering that the bill’s passage was possible due to a majority in Parlia­ment, elected on a manifesto committing to these changes. All these emotive reactions are rooted in a certain political calculus, albeit a failing one. Such accusations must be answered not with equal and opposite emotions, but rationally.

First, the allegation that the CAB is based on religious intolerance is not only wrong, but the facts are precisely the opposite. It has nothing to do with India’s Muslims, who are Indian citizens and enjoy the same constitutional rights as every other citizen.

Instead, CAB is about religious minorities facing persecution in three theistic neighbouring countries. Almost all of them are populations that were part of pre-independence India, now stranded in nations that had falsely promised them protection. That they face persecution in those nations is not in doubt, with reports of forced conversions and marriages, kidnappings, and killings. Indeed, looking at the drastic fall in their share of population in these countries since 1947, they are facing extinction.

Next, the CAB does not prevent Muslims from seeking Indian citizenship, it only recognises the dire straits of minorities in these states and makes a special provision for their rehabilitation.

But what about Ahmadiyas, some argue, or Shias, or the Baloch, or Rohingyas, or minorities from other neighbours? While these people may face danger, there is a rational coherence to their not being included. They are either not in a theistic state whose constitution fundamentally discriminates against them, or they are sub-sects of the official state religion (or transiting en route to India), or their struggle is political rather than religious.

Whatever their claim for relocation to and citizenship of India, it can’t be denied that they are citizens of theistic nations that officially grant them superior status. Or that these nations were carved out for them from pre-independence India on the basis of their religion. In any case, as former solicitor-general Harish Salve has pointed out, it is fallacious to argue that a measure which resolves many problems is wrong, or unconstitutional, if it does not address all related issues.

The failing political calculus behind the manufactured outrage against the CAB is obvious. Its backers have bandied about ‘secularism’ while violating its very fundamentals to polarise the electorate for long. That used to work, but has long since passed its sell-by date, especially in the era of Narendra Modi- and Amit Shah-led BJP. Their appeal transcends the arithmetic of caste- and religion-based votebanks and has refocused the calculus on national interest.

These groups have repeatedly been wrong footed by the Modi-Shah duo, as seen by their confused, contradictory reaction to Triple Talaq, Article 370 and Ayodhya. So much so that their statements on the above have been used by Pakistan and other anti-India elements, including terrorist groups, for global propaganda.

The reason for their confusion is straightforward. Over the decades, they drifted away from the nationalist principles of the freedom struggle, and the egalitarian principles of the Constitution. Instead, they made peace with the temporary status quo—whether a medieval practice that discriminated against Muslim women, or communal personal laws in place of a universal civil code, or treating the abnormal situation in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, including the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits, as normal. Later, they became experts at milking it for political gains.

Now they are at a loss. With constitutional principles being legislated, not to mention decades old parliamentary resolutions, accompanied by landmark SC judgments, they would do well to introspect.

Instead of kneejerk, formulaic responses based on fake secularism and election strategies based on fear-mongering, they would be better off by seeking their own version of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’.