FPJ Edit: Citizenship bill need re-look
It is sad indeed that in seeking to address the issue of the huge influx of refugees from across Indian borders with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan over the years and the proclivity of the Congress party to convert these predominantly Muslim refugees into a vote bank in yesteryears, the BJP is working to come up with an amendment that could worsen the religious divide. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which has been cleared by the Union Cabinet recently is all set to be introduced in Parliament without a thought to the concomitant assault on a section of the population － the minority Muslims － who will doubtlessly face discrimination on the basis of their religion. That this would disturb the basic structure of the Indian Constitution is a seeming reality but the powers-that-be are unconcerned. In effect, the amendment when it is adopted by both Houses, would grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians while shutting doors to Muslims because they are Muslims. Arguably, this would amount to violating the fundamental right to equality provided in the Indian Constitution which it would be in the realm of the courts to adjudicate on.
There is no doubt that the Hindu population in these countries has been dwindling due to discriminatory measures against this minority, and religious persecution. By contrast the Muslim population in India has been increasing and this is true of the north-eastern states, especially Assam where the influx from across the border has been very high. As lay interpretations go, the proposed amendment would ostensibly undermine the very foundation of the Republic in a pluralistic society and would compromise the secularity that formed the basis on which India was founded as distinct from a theocratic Pakistan. It goes without saying, however, that in nature and spirit, Indian secularism and its treatment of Islam have been far more liberal than in the neighbouring countries. In trying to correct a historical wrong, must this country adopt the path that the amendment to the citizenship law proposes to take which militates against its very basic structure? This is not to deny that India needs to move to deter illegal immigration to safeguard its security interests and could even look at persecuted sections of society in neighbouring countries with a sympathetic eye, but a blanket exclusion of Muslims on the specific basis of their religion is not the right way. Surely, we have a right to frame strict laws in regard to immigrants. Any Hindu minority getting away from persecution can be treated on a more sympathetic footing. One hopes the Bill when it travels through Parliament would undergo changes that are not inimical to the basic goals of the framers of the Constitution.