Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Sadhguru on Citizenship Amendment Act

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has given a lucid explanation on the noble motives of Citizenship Amendment Act in response to a question to him. He has urged the protesters to read and understand the act rather than fall for the malicious propaganda that has been going on over it.

His entire explanation can be seen here.

Unfortunately the same journalists who have been spreading misinformation on CAA have started questioning Sadhguru's statement as factually incorrect by nitpicking on irrelevant points rather than understanding the thrust of his argument.

I clear the air here and explain how Sadhguru is absolutely correct and those questioning him are engaging in dishonest journalism driven by prejudice and mala fide intent, which can also be gauged from the disrespectful tone and tenor of their statements against a respected religious figure like him.

1) The religion census of Pakistan was not released since 1998. There is no doubt that there has been drastic decline in percentage of Hindus in these Islamic countries. In West Pakistan the bulk of (>90%) Hindus reside on Sindh. Of which majority are in princely state of Amarkot which was a Hindu majority state which joined Pakistan after Independence. In rest of Pakistan Hindus have been nearly wiped out. Some people are nitpicking over the number of 23% as population of minorities in whole of Pakistan(East + West) at the time of independence, this figure may be accurate if one looks as pre- partition population before migration induced by partition.  In fact in West Pakistan the percentage of Indian religions had reduced from 16% in 1901 to 1.68% in 1991. The thrust of Sadhguru's argument was correct that there is reduction due to persecution & violence.

2) Sadhguru cites an incident of his visit to Jwala Mata temple in Baku where he met a Hindu whose wife had been abducted, converted to Islam and married to someone else on same day. He mentioned in context of this incident that Pakistan did not recognize Hindu marriages which is why this man had no legal case to protect his wife. This was an incident in past not recent. In 2016 Sindh province passed a Hindu marriage act and in 2017 rest of the provinces got a Hindu marriage act. But this in no way changes what Sadhguru said. This is a clear case of persecution of Hindus in Pakistan. Even the current law of Pakistan is being criticized for its annulment clause which causes the marriage to be annulled if any spouse converts to Islam. This is a loophole that can be exploited to abduct and convert even married Hindu women. . There are several cases of abduction of Hindus girls reported from Pakistan.So Sadhguru's example of persecution of Hindus stands valid.

3) A propaganda is being spread that the Citizenship Amendment Act does not mention persecution hence it is not about religious persecution of minorities in Islamic countries in subcontinent. Fact is that in the statement of objects and reasons of the act it is clearly mentioned that religious persecution is the reason. There are associated government notifications on Passport Act and Foreigners Act of 2015 which clearly mention exemption based on religious persecution or fear of religious persecution. When there is overwhelming evidence of an obvious religious persecution based on state discrimination in these countries then such media propaganda is condemn able. Sadhguru in fact says that discrimination in these countries is state defined by law, because of the Islamic nature of these states. So he is again absolutely correct.

4) Sadhguru mentioned that police response has been relatively restrained compared to the kind of riots taking place. He is absolutely correct on this point. One need not go to far back in history just compare this with how 36 people were shot dead by Police after Baba Ram Rahim's followers rioted in Haryana in 2017. Now consider at the Police action in Jamia Milia Islamia university. Sadhguru mentioned that if students pelt stones then won't police enter the university to control the crowds. A lot of noise has been created in police action in Jamia Millia. It must be noted that even courts have not entertained such motivated arguments of police excesses. It is interesting to note that police has sought access to the CCTV footage from the University which has still not been provided to them. What's the justification for this denial? What is there to hide? Sadhguru is again correct in saying that police action was going to happen when there is rioting and even innocents will unfortunately get caught in this action.

5) Sadhguru is correct when he says that rumour are being spread that Muslims will lose their Citizenship because of CAA. This is a malicious propaganda that many people including students have fallen for. If they simply read the act they will know this is not the case. Thus act simply provides a faster path to citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from 3 Islamic states. Does not affect ant Indian citizen. Does not adversely affect anybody's case for seeking citizenship of India under existing process.

6) Sadhguru was asked about NRC so he responded with his views about it how every nation needs to know who its legal citizens are. It is obvious this is needed. He mentioned that for proving citizenship by birth several documents can be accepted. People are arguing they don't have documents. So he question who are these people who have no ID documents. How is it possible for people in this day and age to have no documentary proof. He further states that people who don't have documents can produce witnesses. The possible list of documents can clearly be deduced based in Assam NRC. Spokesperson of home ministry has recently tweeted that witnesses may be considered for illiterate people who don't have documents and a process around that be created. So Sadhguru's entire reply to the question on CAA-NRC is absolutely correct. Those trying to nitpick are dishonest and reflect the same kind or media propaganda journalism that has spread disinformation on CAA in the country.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Information War on Citizenship Act

In the past couple of weeks, the kind of reporting we have seen in Indian and in world media backed by several motivated academicians and politicians on the recent amendment to Indian’s Citizenship Act, can only be described as an Information War, that has been unleashed on the Indian state. It is well known that the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party is seen as a right-wing nationalist party. In India it is seen as a party with primarily Hindu voter base. In international media it is often described as a Hindu nationalist party which in their eyes is a negative portrayal. The ideological opposition to BJP is well entrenched in the left leaning English media in India and also in similarly inclined western media. In general, western media has a negative view of India as a result of cold war dynamics of the past, but off late with the political rise of BJP in India, they have a particularly negative view about India under BJP government.

Various reasons can be attributed to this entrenched opinion. Political positions viewed as right wing are automatically disliked by self-described left liberal media. Influence of Christian evangelical organizations on western and even local Indian media is another factor, since these organizations see the BJP as a less conducive to their evangelical project in India. Similar motive can be attributed to media organizations under influence of Islamic evangelical organizations and Islamic countries. When such motivations are at play then its is almost impossible to expect reasonable analysis of events in India from these media organizations. Their criticism however is often cloaked in the language of liberalism, pluralism, women’s rights, democratic values etc.

There is also a set of Indian urban population which has primarily grown cut off from the civilizational ethos of India under the influence of an education system that specializes in turning the mindset of people away from anything that is culturally Indian in general and Hindu in particular. There is a belief in this population that being less Indian, less Hindu is somehow being more modern. This population has long considered itself to be the guardian of “Indian secularism”. A term which is as difficult to define if not more, than the term Hindutva or Hindu-ness which BJP espouses. In this scenario those who consider themselves anti-Hindutva also consider themselves to be the sole guardians of secularism in India. This group is most turned off by the “Hindu nationalist” image of BJP and views every action by BJP with suspicion. They are also most easily influenced by the western media being English speaking themselves. Many among them consider themselves global citizens who happen to hold an Indian passport.

This urban Indian population especially students of humanities discipline in Indian universities have been under influence of certain ideological groups namely Ambedkarites, extreme Marxist, Islamists and to a lesser degree evangelical Christian groups. The influence of last of these is most subtle since it is not explicitly in Christian fundamentalist terms in most Indian universities but instead in the language of western universalism. This student population has seen BJP as antitheses of what they understand should be the future direction of India. With rise of BJP and loss of political space in electoral democracy to these ideologies they have chosen to combine forces in campus politics by projecting their most extreme form on impressionable college students who are easier to mould towards these ideologies due to a fertile ground created by absence of civilizational knowledge and cultural awareness. In short due to a lack of emic perspective in the humanities education in India these students are most prone to be turned towards these ideologies that are often described as breaking India forces (read Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra, Aravindan Neelakandan) since they see the cultural underpinnings of India and the mainstream culture as oppressive and worthy of being thrown out.

Some of the recent political decisions by the BJP government like the law banning Muslim practice of triple divorce, curb on foreign funding of Indian NGOs which either work for evangelical purposes or influencing Indian political process, the revocation of article 370 which gave a separate constitution to the J&K state and the judicial decision on Ayodhya Ram temple case which went in the favour of Hindus, left these ideological groups completely shattered. It was unexpected by them that these important issues on which they had staked their entire existence had gone out of their hands completely. They were confident that no Indian government will be able to change the constitutional status of J&K, that their case on Ayodhya Ram temple was undefeatable and that no government will be able to touch the Muslim personal laws. They considered these issues to be the touchstone of Indian secularism and set back on these issues hurt their cause greatly.

Under this back drop one must see another issue that these forces see as important which is the status of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India. Whether you look at the liberal left, or the Islamist both see that inaction by GOI in the problem of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants is the happy state of affairs. No government in past had been able to deal with this problem even when there was a widespread movement in Assam to deal with this problem of forced demographic change in north eastern states especially Assam. One of the reasons for this inaction was the difficulty of dealing with this problem without also affecting the Bangladeshi Hindu population which had come to Indian since the 1971 genocide of Bengali Hindus. It is now well known that 80% of the 10 million refugees of the Bangladesh war that came to India were Hindus so were the approximately 3 million victims who were killed in East Pakistan by the Pakistani army. It would not be wrong to say that it was genocide particularly of Bangladeshi Hindus which is easy to see if one compares the census figures of Bangladesh from the pre and post war periods. 

The recent change to the citizenship act which was done by the BJP can be seen as an attempt to solve this conundrum. How to protect the population of religious minorities from Bangladesh living in India from any legal action for deportation back to Bangladesh, where they are vulnerable, but at the same time be able to act on the illegal economic migration from Bangladesh, which has changed the demographics in North eastern states in particular, but has also led to creation of settlements of Bangladeshi populations in several cities in rest of India? This law which provides a faster path to Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and prevents their deportation on grounds of illegal entry or lack of valid documents of entry is a safety net to protect this population for any future state action against illegal economic migrants living in India. A vast majority of such migrants are Bangladeshi.

This distinction between refugees escaping religious persecution a majority of whom happen to be Hindus and the illegal economic immigrants a majority of whom happen to be Muslims does not go down well for the self-described liberal secularists in India. Thus, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the expected national register for citizens which would follow was seen as the final nail in the coffin of secularism by them. They first argued that the CAA is not permitted in Indian constitution which is secular. When it is pointed out that the same constitution permits special consideration to religious minorities when its comes to freedom of operating their educational and religious institutions which Hindus don’t get, or how it is permitted for the state to provide special scholarships and run state funded educational institutions which provide reservations based on religion, how it can run a special minorities affairs ministry and can tolerate separate personal laws, these inconvenient questions are completely avoided by them. The question of legality of this law has been challenged by them in the courts, which has for now refused to stay the act and given the central government one month to respond to the objections.

Without waiting for the court decision to arrive they immediately cried foul of the motive of the government in bringing the CAA in conjunction with yet to be announced pan India National Register for Citizens. While their concern is that with the difficulty of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees being resolved by CAA the illegal Bangladeshi economic migrants now become vulnerable to state action in any future NRC, they chose to project the CAA and NRC exercise being somehow against Indian Muslims. Their weird argument was that Hindus and other religions except Muslims are protected by CAA safety net in any future NRC. Which is completely wrong since CAA is for foreign refugees not for Indian citizens. No Indian will ever choose to apply for naturalization using the CAA route just because his or her name is missed in any future NRC due to lack of any required documents. Naturalization is a longer process and will require clearance by intelligence agencies etc. If such an application is rejected that this person will be left in the lurch despite being an Indian citizen for several generations. It would be utterly foolish for an Indian national to do this rather than produce a community certificate or witnesses from the community in lieu of government issued ID. This was also clarified by spokesperson of the home ministry.

On this rumour that NRC+CAA combine will disenfranchise Indian Muslims in particular they ran a nation-wide campaign against CAA. In this media war the central government of India was projected as being of fascist intent that wishes to put Muslims in detention camps also called in some circles as concentration camps. Such absurd claims and hijacking of the movement by radical Islamists lead to large scale rioting in several urban centers of the country with higher concentration of Muslims. The international media outlets have carried front page articles, editorials and oped criticizing the Citizenship Amendment Act as a “Muslim ban”. When the reality is that it simply provides a faster path and easier process for naturalization to persecuted religious minorities from 3 Islamic countries in the subcontinent. It does not take away any opportunity for anyone no matter what their background on seeking Indian citizenship by naturalization etc by the existing process. What they have described as an action being taken by India for the first time is also not correct. While there was no law as such, it has been the policy of GOI to give special consideration to religious minorities from Pakistan in particular for providing then Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization. It has been seen a commitment by post partition India to provide a refuge to people escaping the Islamic state created in India after partition. This was provided specifically to the non-Muslim communities coming from Pakistan. One is not able to fathom how the executive action remains in the realm of secularism even if favours a particular religion but a legislative action is suddenly a threat to the secular principles of the state.

Given the level of misinformation that is being spread on this issue in India as well as world over, one is struck by the vulnerability of the Indian state to information war of this kind. No matter how many clarifications are given by several quarters, whether state institutions or private individuals, the rumour and the fear mongering around it refuses to die. Riots and protests by university students against the CAA continue unabated. Several lives have been lost, corers of rupees of public property has been damaged and India’s reputation abroad is tarnished in the campaign which has flimsy factual grounds. While one would have understood the academic disagreement on the approach or the legal questions raised on the Law which could have been discussed and resolved in rational manner, the irrational public outrage at display has every marking of an information war that the Indian state needs to better prepare itself for and be able to pre-empt and counter in future, through appropriate communication strategy. The grip of combined breaking India forces on Indian universities is also a cause for worry and the long-term security risk for India that needs to be solved by introducing the emic perspective in Humanities education and making it the mainstream perspective rather than the fringe perspective it currently is. It is only though giving primacy to civilizational knowledge systems in humanities education can this be done. Which is of course another battle ground for the “secularists” who will resist it at every level in the name of it being Hindu.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

We have witnessed a sea change in the approach of National Democratic Alliance government since the 2019 election towards addressing issues that have been long in the election manifesto of BJP, compared to the previous five years. Many people were expecting that 2019 general elections will produce a much reduced mandate in the backdrop of the state assembly results in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan which were held just before the general elections. But the mandate received by the NDA was much bigger than last term. We have seen that not just in Lok Sabha but also in Rajya Sabha NDA has been able to muster a majority with the help of parties which are not in formal alliance with BJP, like Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK.

With this stronger mandate from the people of the country, BJP has found itself in a position to implement the long held promises in its manifesto. We have seen the long awaited scrapping of Article 370 which was seen as unexpected in terms of the swiftness with which it was executed. While the dust had not yet settled on Article 370, NDA went ahead and addressed another difficult problem of what to do about the crores of refugees from neighbouring states who have been living stateless in India for decades. Since partition of India in 1947 and the further splitting of Pakistan in 1971 after a mass genocide of East Pakistan population by Pakistani Army and its supporting militias, an overwhelming majority of whom were Hindus, there have been several waves of immigration of religious minorities from Pakistan into India.

There is almost daily news on the persecution that religious minorities face in the self declared Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. There are hardly any Sikh and Hindu citizens left in Afghanistan since the advent of Taliban. The Population of religious minorities has seen a steady decline in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even in the population which was left after the initial population exchange at the time of partition, there has been reduction of more than 50% among the Hindus in these countries. It is no body's case that religious minorities enjoy any semblance of religious freedom in these three Islamic countries. Abduction of Hindu, Sikh and Christian minor girls and forced conversion after marriage is a common occurrence in Pakistan's Sindh province where majority of Hindu population of Pakistan lives. In Bangladesh also restrictions on Durga Puja, destruction of temples and forced occupation of property of Hindus is very common. All these of these countries are constitutionally Islamic states which discriminates against religious minorities by Law.

Religious minorities from these three countries in the subcontinent are estimated to be close to 2 crores and are living in India stateless for decades. India has given citizenship to such refugees in past via executive orders. Some of these instances have been cited during the parliamentary debate over the citizenship amendment bill. While the refugees from Pakistan have been absorbed as citizens in batches, the most contentious issue has been about the twin problem of refugees and illegal economic immigration from Bangladesh. It is no body's case that the majority Muslims from these countries can claim state oppression based on religion. The qualitative difference has to be understood that while some citizens who happen to be Muslims may face oppression because of political activism or other reason but the religious minorities face discrimination by state and by the community in large simply for "existing".

Government of India has an obligation towards its citizens to secure its borders and keep a check on illegal immigration. However it is well known fact that over the years GOI has been terribly lax in this effort. Out borders are porous and movement of people and smuggling of goods takes place with impunity. This is a result of a weak state with lopsided priorities. The primary function of the state is internal and external security, but India's spending on this is woefully low. While the socialist welfare state spends its resources and energy in running inefficient loss making public sector companies in areas where the state should simple not operate like running airlines. As a result of this lack of attention wilful or otherwise the borders have been left unsecured and a huge population of illegal migration primarily from Bangladesh has resulting in change of demographics primarily in the norther eastern states, but also in several other parts of the country.

This gordian knot which is as complex as or perhaps even more complex than article 370 had to be cut and it has been cut by the twin actions of Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) and the Nation wide register of citizens. This nation wide NRC is already part of the Citizenship Act which was added to the act in 2003 in article 14A of the act but it has not been implemented yet. The CAA 2019 essentially provides a one time amnesty to the illegal migrants who have been persecuted in these three Islamic countries in the subcontinent on the bases of their religion and form a minority population their. As has already been mentioned before there isn't much data required to be presented to prove this the religious census in these countries clearly establishes the dwindling populations of religious minorities there, in contrast with flourishing population of religious minorities in India. In fact the population of Hindus is in steady declined in India under the twin pressures of relatively slower birth rate and mostly unethical targeted religious conversion which is directed primarily towards the Hindu population. In Bangladesh in particular there has been large scale targeted persecution of Hindus. It has been established by other sources which I cite here 80% of the 10 million refugees who came to India in 1971 and 80% of estimated 3 million killed in the genocide perpetrated by Pakistan army in then East Pakistan were Hindus.

Under this backdrop of 71 genocide and the partition of the country on religious lines which left a number of religious minority populations in these Islamic states it was and continues to the be responsibility of Indian state to provide refuge to these people who were stuck on the wrong side of the border for no fault of theirs. While it is not in the interest of the Indic civilization that Indic population goes extinct in these states which were once flourishing centers of the civilization. But at the same time India cannot turn its back on these populations who have sought refuge in India and are living here as stateless and send them back to their source countries. There has been recent news of how 500 Hindus who were deported from Rajasthan to Pakistan were en-masse converted to Islam.

In treatment by the Indian state in grant of citizenship or otherwise they should not be considered at par with the illegal economic migrants. While both have entered India illegally one group has entered under threat of persecution based on religious lines and the other for economic benefit. It has been reported in 2014 that as much as 6% of the GDP of Bangladesh is the amount of remittance that the Bangladeshi workers send back home from India. They prefer India because of ease of entry and low cost of migration since they don't need to procure "Passport" etc to come to India. This number is four times of the remittance they receive from Saudi Arabia. This clearly points to the enormity of the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh and loss of employment opportunity to own  population in the low end labour market of India.

CAA makes this clear distinction by giving these refugees twin guarantee that they would not be deported if they belong to 6 religious minority population of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh as defined in the Act and by reducing the wait time for their naturalization from 12 years to 6 years of aggregate period of stay in India. This is all that the act does it gives a fast track process for application of citizenship of India by registration or naturalization by these refugees and protection against deportation. It does not take away any right from any one else whether Indian Citizen or a foreign national applying for the citizenship of India or seeking asylum on any grounds. It has to be understood that the refugees need to apply for citizenship. So it is possible that their application may be rejected and they may be denied citizenship. But my interpretation of the CAA 2019 is that they will still enjoy protection from deportation if they belong to religious minorities from these 3 countries as defined in CAA 2019.

Many arguments have been made that this act is against secular principles. Claims are being made that it is unconstitutional. The fundamental logic that such arguments don't answer is that if Indian state can give special rights to religious minorities in India,w can it not give special rights to the religious minorities of these countries in the process of seeking citizenship of India. How can one act be secular but other cannot be secular. The definition of word secular it self is not very well defined. Indian state regularly interfears in the matter of religious activities of Hindus who happen to be national majority but not necessarily regional majority in every state of India. So I do not quite understand how this act fails the secularism test. The individual Muslims from Af-Pak and Bangladesh can still apply for Indian citizenship via the normal process. That right has not been denied to them, only a certain section of population from these countries has been given easier process as against the usually more complex process of acquiring Indian citizenship. Various aspects of the legality of this act have been mentioned by lawyers like Harish Salve.

Some people have argued that a combination of CAA and nation wide NRC is discriminatory towards Muslim Indian citizens since compared to say a Hindu who is rejected in NRC and a Muslim who is rejected in NRC the Hindu will not be expelled but a Muslim would. This is far from the truth and stems from incorrect understanding of Citizenship act and the process of naturalization after CAA and the process of national ID both of which are part of the Citizenship act. As has been explained by home minister several time the NRC process will not look at religion of a person at all. CAA will look at religion only for foreign nationals who apply for naturalization under the new process because of religious persecution in these 3 countries. It would be a weird argument to make that a Hindu who gets excluded in NRC will not be expelled if found to be a foreigner. Only a foreigner from these three countries will logically apply for naturalization under CAA. Why would a Hindu Indian citizen whose several generations have lived in the territory of India claim to be Pakistani and then claim persecution for claiming naturalization? Why would he risk his application being rejected and ending up being truly stateless? This logic is beyond belief. But this is the main argument made by the people who oppose CAA and protest on streets.

People are rioting, op-eds are being written, placard wielding students including law student are protesting over this supposedly unequal treatment that Muslims will get since they cannot claim this illegal way of getting citizenship by naturalization and a hypothetical hair brained Hindu can. Any such attempt will only make the case weaker for such a person and the process more complicated since it will trigger more scrutiny by Intelligence Bureau and may result in a rejection of claim when a perfectly legal way of resolving this issue of lack of documents could be found if not via the executive branch of the government then by approaching judiciary.  IB director had told the JPC on Citizenship Amendment Bill that the immediate beneficiary of this act will be around 31,000 refugees who have already applied for citizenship based on religious persecution. But any future claim while not disallowed will require enhanced enquiry by both Internal and External Intelligence agencies of India.

Now that some groups have challenged the act in court we await the judgement of the Supreme court of India to see whether the Act stays as is, parts of it are struck down or all of it is struck down. But the series of violent riots that have taken place across the country and the student protest in certain colleges where they have blocked normal functioning of the colleges shows that these people are not in line with the principles of constitutional democracy and the duty of a citizen to remain peaceful during public demonstrations etc. These actions also amount to putting pressure on the courts which are hearing this matter currently. Such activities should be avoided and court should be allowed to make a judgement on all aspects of this law.