Is CAA against the spirit of the Indian Constitution? What are the social and economic ramifications?

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“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

                                                                 --- Mahatma Gandhi

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 is an act that was passed in the Parliament on December 11, 2019. The 2019 CAA amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 allowing Indian Citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian religious minorities who fled from the neighboring Muslim majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014 due to “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.” However, the act excludes Muslims. The migrants will be granted fast track Indian Citizenship in six years. The amendment also relaxed the residence requirement for naturalization of these migrants from eleven years to five.

CAA has been in the news for nearly two months now and it continues to hog media even today. Protests, both against and in favor of the bill, have spread across the nation with Shaheen Bagh in South Delhi becoming an iconic protest of sorts. At first blush, the law may appear to be discriminatory and unconstitutional, but such a charge does not stand closer scrutiny. The amendment does not violate Article 14, as laws may be classified. There is more command of language than legal reasoning in the contention that the law is against secularism and infringes the Constitution’s basic structure. A law can be invalidated only on the ground of lack of legislative competence or violation of any constitutional provision. The ground is not present and any law regarding citizenship is within the exclusive domain of Parliament and this amendment does not infringe any constitutional provision.

The protests are becoming unsuccessful and Modi and Shah are able to move ahead with their plans for implementing two-tier citizenship, we should be prepared for certain consequences that will alter Indian society and its relationship regionally and internationally forever.

The diversity of identities has been a hallmark of our nationalism and defines what it means to be an Indian. The Indian national anthem says, “Punjab, Sindh, Gujrat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal, Banga”, not “Hindu, Muslim and Sikh”. When freedom fighters were fighting against the Britishers, they didn’t let the religious columns alter their aim and unity.

The CAA also has a diversified impact on the Indian economy. The major impact is with the Islamic nations, with whom we have close trades and cultural ties, are already showing their displeasure against the Act. The US, with whom India has been building ties for decades, is also showing some disbelief in this Act. US senators have been questioning India’s moves ever since Article 370 was diluted in August. India has been risking losing friendly ties and trusts. Indian diplomacy is working twice as hard to explain to the world what CAA actually is! Almost 50% of India’s exports are to fellow Asian countries. The world needs our cheap labor, but, most countries will not go against popular opinion at home. Let's not fool ourselves that economic rationalism will trump self-preservation for leaders.

But the most important and crucial part is our people, the Citizens. Practically, how is India going to contain dissenters? No detention center is able to hold so many people. Today we are attacking Muslims, but who will the BJP target next? On the ground, today all minorities are pondering over this. But all problems are in urgent need to be looked over and solved within the laws such that no section or caste is hurt by the decisions.

Antonio Gramsci has said, “In order to govern, all states need the consent of the governed”. The consent thus has to be manufactured through balancing competing claims and through policies that benefit all sections of the society.

-Anand Sharma

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