Dhaka Courier

CAB: Did Modi need this?

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Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi joins other leaders during a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act near the India Gate, in New Delhi on December16, 2019. Photo AP/UNB

It’s not a Hindu-Muslim issue in India but one of denying diversity and the cost of the same. The CAB and National Citizenship Register have done what many have suspected for long about India’s claim of diversity and secularism.  These concepts are vague and sometimes self-serving.  By stating itself to be both, India had a great advantage as far as Pakistan is concerned. But the recent events in India show that politicians will use whichever tags suit them in managing their rule.

But in case of India the bigger puzzle is, is the cluster of decisions doing the ruling party any good? Granted it has huge popularity among many of the Hindu India but there are other groups as well who are already causing problems. This includes India’s largest religious minority, Muslims- as well as the adivasi community in the North East who are very angry.

But the truly angry block of people are the Ahom in Assam who are not anti-Muslim but anti-Bengali looking at both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis as “infiltrators”. Of course West Bengal is up in arms and so are parts of the world. In parts of Delhi particularly the Jamia Milia University area, its into pretty serious clashes of the violent variety. Aligarh University is being emptied too. More are certain to follow.

Did India really need this?

National and international damage

Students from more than 30 universities all over India have protested and legal academics have even criticized the Chief Justice of India. “fundamental rights cannot be conditional with India’s constitutional framework” a petition said.  However, the court has refused to hear complaints against the police.

The anti-Muslim bias is obvious as the amendments to the citizenship law bars Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from Indian citizenship. Clearly, BJP’s hopes to build a Hindu majoritarian state.

Some people are a bit surprised that average Indian support in general for the bill is actually very high. Most people do want such a state and have always wanted to be so. It isn’t going to become another Pakistan metaphorically speaking but it has always been a “Pakistan” in waiting.

The forces that imagine a “Diverse” state is absent in India and has always been. Neither Pakistan nor India are very different in the way the governance structure is constructed, essentially based on exclusion and ethnicity. This can be of minorities in India and was that of the majority in Pakistan.  It may have been delayed in expressing itself but the primary identity of both the states are the same.

Genocide watch list

India was already on the Genocide watch list after Kashmir but after the CAB law Assam has joined the list. This is embarrassing for India and gives its opponents more to talk about. The claim of being the “largest “ democracy  is already under fire for the internet ban in Kashmir which does mean that it feels as insecure as before to which Assam has now been added. And if problems spread as Bengal looks fiery, it could get worse.

While countrywide protests are not likely, by demonizing Muslims, Modi now risks being called a racist and becoming internationally less-accepted. The UN Human Rights office has called the law “discriminatory”. India no longer is shining. The question that keeps haunting everyone is why?

Impact on the region

If there is one country in the region which is happy with India’s decision, it’s Pakistan. They no longer look so bad compared to India. While Pakistan is terror promoting, India will be shown as “minority hating.” Worse, this minority group is the Muslim who have a global reputation as being prone to “international violence”. If Kashmir was “leashed” to end “terror”, this bill will now promote the same to every part of India where Muslims live.

Actually the Muslim anxiety should be less because what India never really had was Homegrown terror from among the Muslims.  Now that possibility is much more. That is not going to make India safe if the objective was to make India “terror free”.

However, Assam already has a track record and this is going to open new chapters for them. India certainly must be having a plan to deal with such exigencies but it was something it could have done without. Bengal is angry and though right now BJP is strong, should the Ahoms expel Hindu Bengalis, BJP popularity will be threatened.

And if Muslim Bengalis start trekking to Bangladesh, ever pragmatic Sheikh Hasina will play her cards however small they are. Many are saying that this was a political decision to offset attention from the declining economy, at its worst in 45 years. One hopes so for India’s sake. It’s fine to live in a majoritarian state when one belongs to the majority but that is up to a point. In the end, in South Asia, a full belly matters most. And nothing in the bill promises that.

  • DhakaCourier
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • Issue 24
  • Vol 36
  • CAB: Did Modi need this?

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