WE, who are members of the South Asian Community, are deeply disturbed by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the impact that it will have on India’s well-established commitment to diversity and pluralism, and to India’s constitutional tradition that has prioritised secularism, non-discrimination, equality and social justice.
These traditions have kept India united and contributed to social cohesion. They were upheld as exemplars to us in the region as well as globally.
This law undermines these achievements that were built over several decades. It singles out religious persecution over other forms of persecution as warranting special treatment, thereby ignoring gender, ethnicity, caste, birth, and race (among others) that have been, and continue to be markers leading to persecution. Furthermore, it privileges specified religious groups over other faith groups in similar circumstances. Its focus of attention is on the specified religious minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan only and demonstrates a disinterest in other SAARC countries such as Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, with whom India has historical ties.
The law does not recognise that some Muslim sects and atheists are subjected to persecution in countries where they are a minority, and even in countries where they are a majority sectarian differences have led to persecution. By resolutely excluding Muslims from the list of persecuted religious adherents, the law presents as discriminating on religious grounds and specifically discriminating against Muslims.
When read in conjunction with the populist rhetoric endorsing concepts of Hindutva, Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat, and the angst caused by the exclusion of names from the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the intent to undermine and dilute the Muslim presence in India through this Act is feared.
While it is to be applauded that India is providing an expedited pathway to citizenship for persecuted minorities through the CAA 2019, we urge that:
- The two-track discriminatory process of naturalisation for undocumented migrants based on religion is repealed;
- A transparent and well-understood process for registering citizens is established;
- A fair process to appeal exclusion from the National Register of Citizens is established.;
- International instruments – i.e. UN Refugee convention (1951) and UN Stateless Convention (1954) are ratified;
- A non- discriminatory refugee law is passed.
Such approaches will reassure all disadvantaged communities within India’s borders and in the region that they can continue to look upon India to uphold these special values.
On behalf of SAC members, including:
|● Civil Society & Human Rights Network (CSHRN), Kabul||● Development & Justice Initiative (DAJI), New Delhi|
|● Law & Society Trust (LST), Colombo||● Misaal Foundation, New Delhi|
|● Self-Help Association for Rural People through Education & Entrepreneurship (SHAREE), Dhaka||● John Dayal, New Delhi|
|● Muhammed Haider Imtiaz, Islamabad||● Sahar Ahmed, Dublin|