Yesterday US-based online media portal Buzzfeed created a quite a sensation in India when it published a report saying that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella “harshly criticized the Indian law that discriminates against Muslim immigrants”, referring to the Citizenship Amendment Act.
This was first tweeted by Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith, quoting Nadella as saying “I think what is happening is sad… It’s just bad”, telling that the Indian origin CEO was criticising the CAA.
Asked Microsoft CEO @satyanadella about India’s new Citizenship Act. “I think what is happening is sad… It’s just bad…. I would love to see a Bangladeshi immigrant who comes to India and creates the next unicorn in India or becomes the next CEO of Infosys” cc @PranavDixit
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 13, 2020
This tweet immediately gave ammunition to Indian liberals who are opposing the CAA on completely baseless allegations. Several prominent names from the left-liberal ecosystem in India, like historian Ramchandra Guha, journalist Barkha Dutta etc hailed Nadella for his ‘anti-CAA’ comments. Barkha Dutt went a step a further and said that Nadella was talking about NRC also.
Soon after Nadella’s comments were published by Buzzfeed, Microsoft India posted a statement from Nadella, which seeks clarify his position on immigration laws. The statement says that every country will and should define its borders, protect national security and define immigration policy. He added that in democracies, people and governments will debate and define these aspects.
Statement from Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft pic.twitter.com/lzsqAUHu3I
— Microsoft India (@MicrosoftIndia) January 13, 2020
Nadella added, “My hope is for an India where an immigrant can aspire to found a prosperous start-up or lead a multinational corporation benefitting Indian society and the economy at large”.
The statement by Nadella saying that countries have the right to define immigration policy completely contradicts the liberals who were celebrating the Buzzfeed report on his comment. The left-liberals actually advocate an open border policy, saying that all illegal immigrants should be granted citizenship in India. They have even approached the Supreme Court requesting that Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, who are a security risk to India, should be sheltered in India. But Satya Nadella disagrees with them and says that there should be an immigration policy and nations should protect their borders.
Moreover, although Buzzfeed reported that Nedalla had criticised CAA, that is a questionable comment they are making. When some people demanded to know the full statement of Nadella, Smith posted that on Twitter, and it gives a completely different picture. It seems that Buzzfeed misinterpreted the answer given by Nadella and presented in a distorted form. The text of the full answer is given below.
|Q: There’s been a lot of pressure on companies like yours around healing with governments, I wonder if you had a view on the citizenship act in India and broadly if you have concerns about working with that government in terms of how they’re using data?|
A: To me, in fact I obviously grew up in India and I’m very proud of where I get my heritage, culturally in that place, and I grew up in a city, I always felt it was a great place to grow up, we celebrated [united], we celebrated Christmas, Diwali, all three festivals that are big for us. I think what is happening is sad, primarily as sort of someone who grew up there. I feel, and in fact quite frankly, now being informed shaped by the two amazing American things that I’ve observed which is both, it’s technology reaching me where I was growing up and its immigration policy and even a story like mine being possible in a country like this,
I think it’s just, bad if anything I would love to see a Bangladeshi immigrant who comes to India and creates the next unicorn in India, or becomes the CEO of Infosys, that should be the aspiration, if I had to sort of mirror what happened to me in the US, I hope that’s what happens in India.
I’m not saying that any country doesn’t and should not care about its own national security, borders do exist and they’re real and people will think about it, I mean after all immigration is an issue in this country, it’s an issue in Europe and it’s an issue in India, but the approach that one takes to deal with what is immigration, who are immigrants and minority groups, that sensibility.
That’s where I hope these liberal values that we’ve kind of come to– It’s capitalism, quite frankly, has only thrived because of market forces and liberal values, both acting and I hope India figures it out, the good news at least as I see it is it’s a messy democracy and people are debating it, it’s not something that is hidden, it’s something that is being debated actively but I’m definitely clear on what we stand for and what I stand for.
As can be seen in the full reply, although Satya Nadella was asked bout CAA, he seemed to have evaded the question and gave a generic reply about immigration. Nowhere in the answer there is any mention of the recent amendment to the Citizenship Act, which is not a new citizenship law as Buzzfeed is claiming.
Nadella did say, “what is happening is sad”, but it is not sure what was he referring to. It may be the CAA, or it may the tensed situation prevailing in India at present, or the politics being played on it.
Moreover, everything that the Microsoft CEO said about immigrants, actually have no relation with CAA. The amendment does not apply to Indian citizens so people in India can still celebrate Diwali and Christmas together. He talked about a Bangladeshi immigrant coming to India and creating the next unicorn (a term used to mean a startup) in India. The CAA does not prevent any Bangladeshi, or any foreigner, from coming to India and work here. The law actually fast-tracks the process of granting of citizenship to people from six communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, while there is absolutely no change in the law to grant citizenship for others, including Muslims.
Most importantly, the clarification that Microsoft India published later was already present in Nadella’s reply, but the Buzzfeed report chose to completely ignore it. He had said that countries can’t ignore national security, borders do exist, and immigration is an issue everywhere, in the USA, in Europe, in India. He had said that it is important to sensibly approach the issue while dealing with immigration, who are immigrants and minority groups. It is important to note that in the 3 countries for which the CAA is applicable, Muslims are not minority groups, in fact, they are Muslim countries.
Therefore, it can be concluded that Nadella gave a balanced reply to the question, although he advocated for liberal values, he acknowledged the need for national security and immigration policy. But Buzzfeed focused only one part of his answer and ignored the other part. Moreover, even if we assume that he was opposing CAA, the concerns he has raised have nothing to do with CAA, and there is nothing to celebrate in a comment when it is based on a wrong reading of the law.
The CAA does not prevent immigrants from coming to India legally and seek employment or start a business. Indian operations of several multinational companies are headed by persons from outside India, there was never a bar on that, and CAA does not bring any restriction on the same. CAA expedites the process of granting citizenship for some immigrants, while keeping it the same for others, so Nadella should be satisfied with an amendment that helps immigrants, not “harshly criticise” it.