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Hypocrisy at its Finest – The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The situation in present-day America is as addled and riddled with upheaval as the reality show of which its President was once a host. A newspaper in one hand and steaming cup of chai in the other, we observed with nerve-racking astonishment – the coming undone of the country that once prided itself on being the respite of all the worn and weary in seek of refuge.

On one hand, videos of conceited white folk strolling around asking hijab-clad women if they have a green card are strewn all over social media. On the other, we see liberal Americans from all rungs of society joined together in protest against the detention of people from Trump’s list of 7 banned countries at airports, nationwide.

These sights steadily began to stir up feelings of pride in the Indian resident, that as flawed as their country might be, at least they could call it their own. Communal riots are still in the backdrop, and perhaps always will be, but pale in comparison to the flagrant Islamophobia out in the West. It beckons the question, “If things are so bad for them there, then why stand for that treatment? Why not seek out better prospects back home?”

Tragic as it is, this is what has become of the “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.” Credits: The Hindustan Times.

Little do such people know, however, of what the Indian government really has planned. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill currently lies dormant in the Joint Parliamentary Committee, but if passed, it could be a huge blow to the purported secular stance of this nation.

The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for a total of 11 of the previous 14 years.  The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to these six religions, and three countries.

This implies that if asylum in Indian soil is what you seek, your process of legally becoming an Indian citizen has now been cut short by a whopping five years. Provided, of course, you are not a follower of the Islamic faith.

On the very surface of it, this could be seen as being centred about the motif to give preference to minority residents of these predominantly Muslim countries. That, however, would be the only silver lining anyone in their right mind could possibly bring up in defence of this Bill.

To take a look at the specifics,

  • A person hailing from an impoverished, war-torn country such as these three, is in dire need of rescue, regardless of religious affiliation. Someone relentlessly subjected to the constant disquiet of militants in their homeland would be on tenterhooks to rid themselves of the blemish of their heritage. The sooner they can integrate into India’s relatively subdued metropolitan cities and villages, the better.
  • To argue that Muslims residing in such countries would face less torment than those in the minority is akin to casting pearls before swine. A lawmaker seated comfortably in their lavish upper-end south Delhi home cannot possibly testify as to what extent the strife of someone living across the border might be undergoing in a town where the Taliban are kidnapping his wife and child.
  • Trump’s policy seems to be the lesser of two evils here in that, it at least bans people of ALL faiths originating from a list of seven countries that had been deemed as a threat even during the days of the Obama administration. This Bill is an outright onslaught on the rights of Muslim immigrants alone.
  • If this is supposed to be some sort of preventative measure regarding terrorism, then let it be known for the umpteenth time that Muslims are not the sole cause of terrorism. It is for this very reason that Obama so vehemently opposed usage of the term “Radical Islam.Nowhere in the tenets of Islam has the slaughter of innocent people ever been condoned.
  • Recruiters from terrorist organisations simply play upon the sentiments of someone who is emotionally vulnerable, by dredging up feelings of resentment toward the government. Moreover, anyone who can be convinced to take the life of a complete stranger must have something fundamentally wrong with their very mental framework in the first place.
  • While not nearly as prominent a destination as, the U.S. or Europe, India stands eighth in the list of countries most frequently sought out by refugees. Thus, any decision made to alter their fate would affect a substantial amount of lives and is not to be taken lightly.

Should she be made to wait longer to attain citizenship simply for her religious beliefs? Credits :SYNERGISTIQ

This is, therefore, a redundant proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act. If emulating the West is what our government so fervently desires, it would be better off taking cues from their unsurpassed infrastructure and measures to aid their poor. India, at this moment, has much bigger fish to fry.

If after all this, one ponders how this should be of any concern to an Indian citizen by birth, the answer is two-fold. There is the obvious reasoning that the most rudimentary of differences between man and an animal is our capability of expressing empathy. Additionally, if we begin to pass laws that discriminate between religions even in ways as trifling as this, it begs the question, “What more could possibly be afoot?”