I cried tears of joy after Rajya Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) on Wednesday evening. My amphibious tears were shed on recognising the supreme benevolence of the government that has, in the face of being misunderstood and misrepresented, given the clarion call: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian masses yearning to breathe free.’
But you know how haters will keep hating, doubters keep doubting. They see this new fast-tracked citizenship procedure being exclusionary, just because it doesn’t mention Muslims. Messrs Nitpicklals! While initiating the debate on CAB in Lok Sabha, Union home minister Amit Shah had clearly stated, ‘We will have to differentiate between infiltrators and refugees.’ Why on earth should we not believe his genuine concern for non-non-Muslim enemies of the state camouflaging themselves as asylum-seeking Muslims?
Well, now that my tears have dried up, here’s why. CAB is a double entendre. As the BJP leadership is at pains to explain, this is not a Muslim-law, but a ‘pro-non-Muslim’ one, with the original provisions of the Citizenship Act allowing anyone to apply for Indian citizenship.
On the other hand, it’s an ‘All migrants are equal, but some migrants are more equal than others’ law, which should comfort those who are (still) seeking correction of what they perceive to be the ‘minority-appeasing’ (read: ‘majority-frustrating’) politics of past central administrations and some continuing state governments.
But one thing seems to be stitched up once and for all: that BJP and its affiliates have given up on that old ‘Akhand Bharat’ project. Instead, ‘old outlying Bharat bits’ are being allowed to float off.
One supposes that regularly targeted Shias from Pakistan and Afghanistan, like the Myanmarese Rohingyas, and beleagueared Tamils from Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, will just have to avail of the unamended Citizenship Act to apply for Indian citizenship.
Which brings us to what an Indian Muslim, or a Kashmiri Muslim, could be making of this religion-based filtration process. ‘All terrorists are Muslim, but not all Muslims are terrorists’ is a line that took official traction in the post-9/11 world. But it didn’t quite ameliorate matters, or views, in the worldwide web of national security.
Shah’s ‘infiltrating’ Bangladeshis or Pakistanis seem to bear a striking resemblance to (underclass) Indian Bengalis or Indian Muslims for many – especially the Assamese, whose problem with CAB is specifically about their cities and towns now being overrun with even more (Hindu, atheist, cook, maid, it doesn’t matter) Bengalis/ Bangladeshis. This is our version of Sikhs in the West being identified as ‘ragheads’.
In the US, Donald Trump had announced his presidential campaign in June 2015 with: ‘The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems … When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.’ In India, we now have three ‘Mexicos’ to choose from.
However much the government wishes to comfort members of India’s second largest religious community that CAB is about ‘national security’, the very act of unfurling a humanitarian welcome mat to a set of people who are non-Muslims is bad optics, bad politics and bad signalling to the country’s current citizenry.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an icon of the Conservative parivar to this day for many in our climes, made his views on a religion-based community clear when he wrote to the Soviet ambassador in London in 1942: ‘The Hindus are windbags. Yes, windbags! Oh, of course, when it comes to fine speeches, skillfully balanced resolutions and legalistic castles in the air, the Hindus are real experts! They’re in their element! When it comes to business, when something must be decided on quickly, implemented, executed – here the Hindus say ‘pass’.’
With CAB on its way to becoming CAA, one thing can be said: Churchill has been proved wrong to believe, ‘All windbags are Hindu, and all Hindus are windbags.’ At least, the Prime Minister of India in 2019, who has called the day CAB was passed in Parliament a landmark one, is implicitly saying all infiltrators are Muslim, but not all Muslims are infiltrators. For which i, for one, am shedding tears of gratitude.
DISCLAIMER : This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.