The Citizenship Amendment Bill has been creating a furore in the ‘Liberal’ section of the population. Several untenable arguments against the bill have been made including the assertion that the bill is against the Constitution of India and is against ‘secularism’. People have also said that it is an ‘anti-minority’ bill. Most of these arguments are oft-repeated and have been countered threadbare earlier. The Bill does not violate the provisions of the constitution and since it is to give citizenship to persecuted minorities of neighbouring Islamic countries, it is not ‘anti-minority’ or ‘anti-Muslim’ since Islam is the dominant religion in those countries. Tired of these oft-repeated statements, Shekhar Gupta of The Print decided to come up with a new argument.
Shekhar Gupta of The Print wrote a ’50 word edit’ in which he claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is not what the BJP was voted to power for.
Shekhar Gupta in his edit says that the BJP is needlessly bringing back the ghosts of the partition. He also says that the fact that BJP is bringing this bill shows a bankruptcy of ideas for 2019 and that while the bill may pass through the parliament, it is not what the BJP was voted to power for.
While these conjectures might sound interesting and intellectually stimulating, they are far from the truth.
Firstly, the assertion that the bill brings up the ghosts of the past is an incorrect statement. The persecution that minorities face in the neighbouring Islamic nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are extremely real and present. Many Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist etc girls are abducted, sexually exploited, forcefully converted to Islam and then exploited further.
On the day that Shekhar Gupta wrote this edit, another Christian girl in Pakistan was abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and then forced to marry her abductor. What the minorities in Islamic nations suffer is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. That the crisis was born out of the ill-conceived partition on the basis of religion is secondary.
Further, Shekhar Gupta says that the BJP was not voted to power for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. He could not be further from the truth.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill was mentioned rather explicitly in the BJP’s 2019 manifesto.
The manifesto of the BJP prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections clearly specifies that the BJP is committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from the neighbouring countries escaping persecution. It also said that it will make an effort to ensure clarity on the issue to the sections of the population from Northeast India.
In fact, in several speeches throughout the years, the BJP and its leaders including Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have reiterated their promise of passing the citizenship amendment bill. It is pertinent to note here that the BJP was elected to power with a greater majority in 2019 than in 2014.
With this being a prominent promise through 2014 to 2019, one wonders how Shekhar Gupta can claim that the BJP was not voted to power for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While no one promise or agenda ever get a party to power and it is always a culmination of promises, the Citizenship Amendment Bill was one of the most prominent promises made by the BJP and it got the mandate to deliver on it.
It is evident that along with the other self-professed “liberals”, Shekhar Gupta is trying to further a narrative against granting citizenship to persecuted minorities of Islamic nations. The narrative is obviously not rooted in facts but does strengthen the ‘secular credentials’ of the ones who rather watch minorities in Islamic nations suffer than admit that the bill introduced by PM Modi addresses a humanitarian crisis that deserved attention long ago.