The BJP cadre is girding up its loins for a nationwide campaign, convincing people about the virtues of the amended Citizenship Act (CAA). The party is undertaking a 10-day programme in support of two issues that the left has turned controversial. In addition to processions in districts, the party ruling at the Centre will reach out to a total of 3,00,00,000 families across the country.
BJP leader Bhupender Yadav today said, “Our party has decided that in the coming 10 days we will launch a special campaign and contact over 3 crore families for Citizenship Amendment Act. We will hold press briefings in support of this Act at more than 250 places.”
BJP vs non-BJP chief ministers
Chief Ministers like TMC’s Mamata Banerjee and CPI(M)’s Pinarayi Vijayan are protesting against the CAA and National Citizenship Register (NRC) on the streets. Among the parliamentarians, MPS of the INC lead a delegation to President Ram Nath Kovind and complained against the government.
On the other hand, the Union government appears in no mood to rollback the CAA duly passed by Parliament. Home Minister Amit Shah has made it clear that there is no going back on the amended law, no matter how much activists supported by the opposition raise hell in the streets. Implementing the BJP agenda are its governments in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. If the Yogi Adityanath government has started penalising rioters for the damages they have done to properties, police firing has claimed the lives of two vandals in Mangaluru in BS Yediyurappa-ruled Karnataka.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and others in the BJP government are succeeding in mellowing down the demonstrators (more about it in the section below).
A chief minister like Nitish Kumar of the JD(U) is neither here nor there. After letting his party support the BJP in Parliament with its MPs’ votes for the CAA, Kumar says he is not in favour of the NRC. In any case, for the past few days, the Union government has stopped pushing the NRC hard, as its model for implementation across the country has not been worked out yet.
In the meantime, support for the CAA is growing among the people even though their show of strength is not grabbing news headlines for the sheer absence of violence by this section of the population. Some snapshots:
Why Assam is pacified and the rest of Northeast not complaining
The agitations in Assam have subsided and the State is fast returning to normalcy. While Clause 6 of the Assam Accord have pacified the Assamese people, the rest of the Northeast is not concerned about the CAA, as those States have been assured by their Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime.
The ILP is an official travel document issued by the Union government to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected area for a limited period. It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside those States to obtain a permit for entering into the protected state. The document is an effort by the government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international border of India.
The ILP is an offshoot of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, which protected the Crown’s interest in the tea, oil and elephant trade by prohibiting “British subjects” from entering into these “Protected Areas” (to prevent them from establishing any commercial venture that could rival the Crown’s agents). The word “British subjects” was replaced by Citizen of India in 1950.
Despite the fact that the ILP was originally created by the British to safeguard their commercial interests, it continues to be used in India, officially to protect tribal cultures in northeastern India. There are different kinds of ILP’s, one for tourists and others for people who intend to stay for long-term periods, often for employment purposes.
CAA & NRC: Myths vs facts
Contrary to the popular myths that are inciting mobs against the CAA, the amended law is not about existing Indians. It says if an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, Bangladesh of Afghanistan is detected in India, he/she will not be deprived of Indian citizenship if he/she is a Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist, Jain or Parsi.
As for the NRC, as and when the government decides in favour of the exercise across the country, no legacy needs to be proven, say sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs. That is, one who was born in India will not have to prove he/she is Indian. Only those born outside India, irrespective of their religion, need to establish their Indian credentials, the MHA sources say. In effect, a large section of the Indian population will thus never have to pass the NRC test.
Regardless of the CAA and NRC, a person of any religion whatsoever can apply to be an Indian and be accepted as one, depending on the merits of that individual case. That was always there and it continues to be the citizenship application rule. Among the famous cases, that was how singer Adnan Sami became an Indian citizen. This route to becoming an Indian citizen remains unaffected.
Finally, even a Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist, Jain or Parsi from Pakistan, Bangladesh of Afghanistan needs to apply for Indian citizenship despite the CAA. He/she does not turn a citizen by default.