By Theodore Shoebat
Riots have been taking place in India as anger has bursted over India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which will, according to the Washington Post, “include religion as a criterion for nationality for the first time deepening concerns that a country founded on secular ideals is becoming a Hindu state that treats Muslims as second-class citizens.” The same report goes on to explain:
The new legislation creates a path to citizenship for migrants who belong to several South Asian religions but pointedly excludes Islam, the faith practiced by 200 million Indian citizens.
The measure was approved by a majority of the upper house of India’s Parliament in a final vote late Wednesday. It is expected to be signed into law by India’s ceremonial president within days.…
Since winning a landslide reelection victory in May, Modi has moved swiftly to implement his party’s agenda of emphasizing Hindu primacy in India, a diverse democracy home to more than 1.3 billion people.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday alleged, without mentioning this incident, that the BJP was buying skullcaps for its workers to wear while going on the rampage to try and deflect blame on a particular community.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Sunday said the protesters against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act could be “identified by their clothes”.
Officers in Murshidabad said that residents of Radhamadhabtala village had caught and handed over the six youths after seeing them throwing stones at a Sealdah-bound trial engine travelling on the Sealdah-Lalgola line. They said the six included Abhishek Sarkar, 21, a local BJP worker.
“The youths claimed they had worn lungis and skullcaps for the sake of a video they were shooting for their YouTube channel. But they could not prove the existence of any such channel,” district police chief Mukesh said.
According to residents of Radhamadhabtala, Abhishek Sarkar was witnessed as an active BJP enthusiast who would participate in rallies for the party. “We became suspicious when we saw the youths change their clothes near the railway line,” a villager said on Thursday. “We knew Abhishek as he is very vocal about his views. So we decided to confront them.”
Sources stated that a seventh member of the gang ran away after being attacked. The other six members of the posse have been being questioned at Behrampore police station. It has been confirmed by local BJP sources that Sarkar was a party worker. But, of course, a BJP district president Gouri Sankar Ghosh, denies this.
In Calcutta,Chief minister Mamata Banerjee told a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue:
“Don’t fall into the BJP’s trap. They are trying very hard to turn this into a fight between Hindus and Muslims, when it’s anything but…. We have received intelligence that the BJP has been buying skullcaps for its workers. They are wearing them to get photographed and filmed while vandalising public property… to malign a community.
“I urge our younger generation not to believe everything they see on social media. The BJP has been misusing the crores at its disposal to spread fake news and videos to incite violence and hatred.”
Recently, WhatsApp conversations between BJP activists and fanatics were leaked out and reveal the motivations that these nationalists have for the Citizenship bill: to establish a Hindu state or a “Hindu Rashtra”. These conversations talked about how they want to “kick Muslims out of India” and polarize the country or “halve India’s population, without any effort.” They also expressed a desire for Muslims to lose citizenship after the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), which requires immigrants to produce documents of ancestry in India on or before March 24, 1971. to be enlisted as Indian citizens as a means to “throw out infiltrators.” In one Whatsapp conversation a BJP sympathizer sees the NRC as a way to “check and throw” ‘illegal’ immigrants, and to commence “Population control” and translates this as “No pig breeding.” This type of dark sentiment regarding ‘illegal’ immigrants can be found amongst both the enthusiasts of the BJP and in the actual power structures of the party. BJP president and home minister Amit Shah described these immigrants at an April 2019 rally as such
“These infiltrators are eating away at our country like termites … The NRC is our means of removing them.”
The reinvigoration of racism and Hindu nationalism is causing a deterioration of India’s identity as a secular country. The current events within India have moved Niraja Gopal Jayal, a professor at the Center for the Study of Law and Governance at Jawaharlal Nehru University, to observe:
I think it’s the biggest threat to India’s self-definition as a nation—the definition that India adopted at independence, which was informed by the values of the movement for freedom from British rule and embodied in the Indian constitution. I think that vision of India, as a secular, inclusive, plural, multicultural democracy, is certainly under threat more than at any previous time.
It introduces, for the first time, a religious criterion as a test for citizenship. Obviously, someone who supports it could argue that it only applies to people who are refugees or illegal migrants—it doesn’t apply to existing Indian citizens. That argument has indeed been made, but I think that it is a threat to the idea of Indian citizenship per se. It is, in some senses, a body blow to the constitutional ideal of equality of citizenship regardless of caste, creed, gender, language, and so on. Ours is a secular constitution, and the worry is that the introduction of the religious criterion will yield, effectively, a hierarchy of citizens, a kind of two-tiered, graded citizenship.
Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and human rights advocate, said regarding India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) that by “assuring citizenship to all undocumented persons except those of the Muslim faith, the CAB risks … destroying the secular and democratic tenets of our revered Constitution.”
The amending of citizen criteria changes the standard of national identity and creates dangerous grounds for ethnic and religious tensions (think Serb vs. Croat level hatred). When the the NRC was established in August of 2019, around 2 million people, many of whom were Muslims, some of them Hindus, discovered that their names were not in the database. They were informed they had a limited time to prove that they are, in fact, citizens. Failure to do so would lead to them being rounded up into massive new detention camps and, eventually, deported. While the NRC has been limited to only the region of Assam, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made it known that it wants to extend the NRC process across India. India, to quote US Commission on International Religious Freedom is taking a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,” and they are correct.
As the United States government has used Islamic terrorism as a way to justify policies like the Patriot Act and the Iraq War; while in Germany it was confirmed that media reports of mass sexual assaults that reportedly took place on 31 December 2016 and 1 January 2017 were “without foundation”, and this caused, expectedly, a nationalist spark. There seems to be a pattern here: fomenting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hysteria as a way to justify certain despotic policies.