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  • 12 Dec 2020 GS Paper 2 Polity & Governance

    Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 gets into conflict with India’s constitutional values and poses a challenge to internal security and foreign policy front. Comment. (250 words)

    Approach
    • Introduce by briefly explaining the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
    • Discuss how this Act is a threat to India’s Constitutional Values.
    • Highlight the challenges on Foreign policy front.
    • Write a suitable conclusion

    Introduction

    • The Parliament had recently passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2019. This Bill seeks to grant Indian Citizenship to persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have migrated to India after facing persecution on grounds of religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
    • It basically intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.

    Body

    Threat to India’s Constitutional Values

    • The fundamental criticism of the Act has been that it specifically targets Muslims. Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution (which guarantees the right to equality) and the principle of secularism.
    • India has several other refugees that include Tamils from Sri Lanka and Hindu Rohingya from Myanmar. They are not covered under the Act.
    • It will be difficult for the government to differentiate between illegal migrants and those persecuted.
    • Beyond Bangladesh, India’s long-standing reputation as a constitutional democracy is taking a hit.
      • The US, for example, has urged India to respect religious freedom.
      • In this context, India’s founding values were equality, including religious equality, diversity and tolerance.
      • Stalwarts of the Indian freedom struggle Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar also had never envisioned India as a Hindu homeland.

    Harming the Interest of a Particular Minority

    • It is patently clear that (using citizenship amendments) if the existing Muslim citizens of India are unable to produce documents of Indian ancestry, the National Register later, can easily make them non-citizens.
      • In contrast, if Hindus face a similar documentary deficit, they would neither be interned nor expelled.
    • If the question is of persecution of some religious groups, then the Act must also encompass Srilanka (Tamils) and China (Tibetans).
    • Most importantly, this Act will seek to deepen the communal divide that remains ever-present within the social fabric of South Asia.

    Destabilising India’s Northeast

    • The Citizenship Amendment Act is against the Assam Accord of 1985.
    • The granting of citizenship to illegal migrants (excluding Muslims), has created anxiety among the original habitants of the region.
    • Moreover, the response in the Northeast to the Citizenship Amendment Act is not merely ‘tribal xenophobia’ but a pursuit to preserve one’s culture.
      • Going by UNESCO’s definition of endangered languages, all of the 200 and more languages spoken in the Northeast, with the exception of Assamese and Bengali, are in the vulnerable category.
      • The fear in Assam of being overwhelmed by an unceasing influx of people from Bangladesh therefore is nothing beyond legitimacy.

    Challenge on Foreign Policy Front

    • The biggest negative impact of this Act is on India’s relations with Bangladesh.
    • India’s relations with Bangladesh have been very cordial on various fronts like the economic and strategic.
      • The Indian government has antagonised Bangladesh by framing religious persecution of the Hindu minority in Bangladesh as one of the motivations for the Citizenship Amendment Act.
      • This could jeopardise the bilateral partnership with Bangladesh, that will lead to undermining of the only successful example of India's neighbourhood first policy.
    • The CAA annuls the goodwill India has enjoyed among the people of Afghanistan. Given Pakistan’s terrible record of interference in Afghan affairs for decades, many Afghans have historically and naturally gravitated towards India. The act poses a challenge to that goodwill.

    Conclusion

    The trust deficit among India’s vulnerable communities doesn’t augur well with India’s ambitions of becoming a superpower. It is also essential to underscore that in no civilised country can religion be the basis of citizenship, specifically if the founding principles of such nation-states championed secular ideals and equality before the law. Therefore, the best way forward has to be on the path of truth and reconciliation as shown by great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

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