Analysis: BJP Caught In Its Own Web Over CAA Before Polls

Analysis: BJP Caught In Its Own Web Over CAA Before Polls

Currently, the BJP is advocating that CAA and the NRC should not be mentioned in the same breath. The BJP’s argument is that while the objective of the NRC is to weed out those who can’t prove their nationality, the CAA is solely about granting citizenship to non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries

SNM AbdiUpdated: Tuesday, March 19, 2024, 09:38 PM IST
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A protest against the CAA and NRC | File Photo

The Narendra Modi regime has unleashed the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate on Arvind Kejriwal but he is still able to run rings around the Bharatiya Janata Party. I was frankly quite impressed by his razor-sharp retort to the notification of rules for implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act. The CAA is blatantly unconstitutional but has nonetheless built a pathway for the entry of Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan into India — and is being uniformly seen as a master stroke by the BJP to project itself as a Hindu first party with an eye on the coming elections.

Last week, even as CBI and ED were snapping at his heels, Kejriwal announced that the implementation of CAA is “extremely dangerous” as it would allow Hindus from neighbouring nations enter the country and snatch away jobs and livelihoods from Indians who are already reeling under the impact of rising inflation and unemployment. According to him, the outsiders will be a vote-bank for the BJP but won’t do any good for the country. He warned that the refugees and their children will corner jobs that are rightfully ours and our children’s. He did a quick calculation and declared that Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan house roughly 30 million Hindus and even if 15 million poor Hindus are given shelter in India under the cover of CAA, they will vote permanently for the BJP but will also, besides snatching jobs, create law and order problems and pose a threat to our women. “Will your daughters be safe with these Pakistanis around?” he asked in all earnestness as only a politician can. He went to the extent of advising the Modi government that instead of rehabilitating Hindus from neighbouring countries in India, it should make efforts to bring back industrialists who have left since 2014 so that they can reopen factories and mills which would provide jobs to Indians and their children. When BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, accused Kejriwal of being anti-Hindu, he indignantly shot back that the country comes first.

Currently, the BJP is advocating that CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) should not be mentioned in the same breath. The BJP’s argument is that while the objective of the NRC, which is now on hold, is to weed out those who can’t prove their nationality, the CAA is solely about granting citizenship to non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries. Hence no one is the loser; there are only gainers. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Barpeta on March 14 that people are being misled by opposition parties into believing that CAA can snatch citizenship, whereas the truth is that CAA is poles apart from NRC and will only confer citizenship. Similarly, Shah has dared Opposition leaders, especially West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to show him one provision in the rules notified for implementing the CAA under which anyone’s citizenship can be revoked.

But I have a question. And this is not even a Hindu-Muslim question. There is no question of a Muslim foreigner applying for Indian citizenship under the aegis of CAA; only non-Muslims can. So let’s assume that a Bangladeshi Hindu migrant living in India from well before December 31, 2014 — the cut-off date — applies for citizenship under the just notified CAA rules. But, as misfortune would have it, he is unable to upload in the designated portal a single document that he is required to submit as evidence of his citizenship of one of those three countries, or proof of his stay in India for more than five years, as he simply doesn’t possess any of the different types of documents listed in the final gazette notification for submission. Obviously, his application will be summarily rejected for not meeting the criterion laid down in CAA rules for acquiring Indian citizenship. What will be his status after he fails to qualify for citizenship and his application is rejected? Will he get categorised and identified as an illegal infiltrator and packed off to a detention centre? I would like to hear what the Home Ministry has to say.

Secondly, the Modi government is now professing to delink the CAA from the NRC against which there was such a severe backlash in 2019. At present, the Centre doesn’t want anyone to hark back to the NRC so that the CAA has a smooth run. But, in the past, Shah himself has linked the two and famously underlined the “chronology” at work. In April 2019, he said: “First we will bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill (the precursor of CAA). Every refugee will get citizenship, and after that we will bring the National Register of Citizens. So refugees have no reasons to worry. But infiltrators definitely have a reason to worry. So understand the chronology.” For the uninitiated, the Hindu Right calls illegal Muslim immigrants “infiltrators” who would be imprisoned and expelled through NRC, but illegal Hindu immigrants are “refugees” who would be given Indian nationality through CAA.

Importantly, it’s not only Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan and Sitaram Yechury who want CAA repealed because it uses religion as a yardstick for conferring Indian citizenship and openly discriminates against Muslims. The United States, the superpower that the Modi government has hitched its wagon to, has also articulated its disapproval publicly. A US State Department spokesperson said during a media briefing that Washington “is monitoring how this Act will be implemented as respect for religious freedom and equal treatment under the law for all communities are fundamental democratic principles”. New Delhi quickly brushed away the caustic US remarks as misplaced and unwarranted. But all eyes are now on the Supreme Court which will hear today a clutch of petitions challenging CAA and the rules rolled out for its execution.

The author is an independent, Pegasused reporter and commentator on foreign policy and domestic politics

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