Bas! No C.A.B.!

PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
Maharashtra State Unit
Convenor: Mihir Desai; Members: Sandhya Gokhale, Rajni Bakshi, Sitaram Shelar, Dolphy D’souza, Alex D’mello, Lara Jesani
Email: pucl.maharashtra@gmail.com

Objections raised by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) to the Citizenship Act
(Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019.


The Citizenship Act (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019 is the most significant blow as yet inflicted by the NDA government on the secular foundations of the country. The Bill displays a deep ignorance and disregard for India’s historical role as a refuge for people to escape repression and seeks to erode core principles enshrined in the Constitution of India.


PUCL, Maharashtra, is opposed to the stated and unstated premises of the Citizenship
Amendment Bill CAB (2019) for five reasons:

First, a basic principle of the Indian Constitution is non-discrimination on the basis of
religion.
For the first time in independent India’s history, using religion as an eligibility criterion for citizenship has violated this principle. The Bill fails to even mention neighbouring countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. The CAB reveals the willful ignorance of the traumatic lives of communities in war-torn Afghanistan, the systematic repression and near-genocide-like conditions faced by the Shias, Ahmadiyas, Bahai, and atheists in Pakistan and, to an extent, in Bangladesh, Tamils (Hindus, Muslims and also Christians) in Sri Lanka, and Rohingyas (Muslims and also some Hindus) in Myanmar. The government’s apparent disinterest in ensuring humane
living conditions for the groups that risk been denied refuge and rendered stateless is an
irresponsible violation of global human rights norms.


Second, modifications to foundational and intellectual questions such as “who is an Indian citizen” should not be answered within the confines of a single, that too sectarian, political spectrum. The reasons for enormous changes should withstand broad-based scrutiny preferably under a Parliamentary Committee with representations from a broad range of political parties. The unnecessary secrecy, the adhocism, and the arrogance of a brute majority are unbecoming of a parliamentary democracy.


Third, the CAB along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at the national scale and the National Population Register (NPR), is a three-pronged scheme hatched to dismantle and replace the secular and pluralist foundations of the country with that of a Hindu theocracy – a state which will treat minorities, particularly Muslims, as inimical to its functioning. Already sectarian policies such as the restrictions on food habits, the promotion of vegetarianism, distorting history textbooks to airbrush Islamic contributions, and renaming places representing Islamic heritage have sought to relegate Muslim citizens into a de-facto second-class status. Minorities and other marginalized sections are increasingly being targeted using hate-speech,
lynching, encounter killings, custodial deaths, and sexual assaults.
The combined impact of CAB, the national NRC, and NPR will be to legitimize and aggravate these systemic exclusions and violence on minorities.

Moreover, the NPR carries with it the inherent threat of extreme monitoring and surveillance as it is will be a compulsory digital record of citizens usually resident in any place for six months, a record that may be linked to the Aadhaar for verification.

Fourth, the CAB exposes the government’s realization the NRC in Assam is a deeply flawed process that has resulted in Hindus and as well as Muslims (the intended targets) facing a life in the dreaded detention camps. Rather than acknowledging the needless suffering caused, the CAB is now being used as majoritarian signal to assuage concerns of Hindus while ignoring the fears of Muslims of being left out when the NRC is implemented at a national scale. In reality, the CAB will not offer any protection, as with or without it, a national NRC will wreak a man-made humanitarian crisis across all religious groups, including Hindus; particularly on the economically deprived categories.

Fifth, the CAB and NRC are being implemented at a time when the citizens of this country are already dealing with precariousness stemming from an unprecedented economic downturn and the weakening of labour protections. The CAB creates additional apprehensions in terms of capacities such as time, money, and attention and will accelerate the worsening economic crisis. While the ploy of the government to distract the public from their economic distress may work, it will be at the cost of irreparable damage to societal solidarity as citizens will be forced into a state of permanent anxiety and mutual suspicion. It will drive the country and its peoples
further away from the values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity that are affirmed in the Preamble to our Constitution.


PUCL will oppose and resist this onslaught of CAB and the imminent deployment of the NRC and the NPR. PUCL requests the citizens of India to join us in this struggle to preserve the secular fabric of our country and the basic tenets of our Constitution.

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