The Citizenship Amendment Act posed a direct challenge to India’s democratic and secular polity as well as to its political stability, said N. Ram, eminent journalist and a Director of the THG Publishing Pvt. Limited.
Delivering the Benjamin Bailey Chair lecture on “The future of citizenship in India”, Mr. Ram said denying and subverting the equal rights of citizens based on their religious identities goes right into the heart of chauvnism as it would leave millions of people vulnerable. The brutal suppression of the democratic protest that cropped up against the citizenship regime change only underscored the anti-constitutional and authoritarian nature of the project.
“The massive NRC exercise taken up in Asaam, which proved to be a nightmare, should serve a warning to India’‘, noted Mr. Ram.
According to Mr. Ram, the 2003-2004 amendment of the Citizenship Act presented a more arbitrary and exclusionary chapter in India’s citizenship regime, which had begun brightly on the principle of equality and justice. It became more aggressive after 2014, and intensified further with the BJP winning a second term in 2019.
“The change in law will have larger political implication not just for the illegal migrants, not just for large number of victims , but for all Indian citizens”, said Mr. Ram, also pointing to the tremendous hardship that a countrywide NPR and NRC would cause to the marginalised.
While Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, derisively described citizenship as a little thing to be put on the backburner , the current dispensation at the Centre has sought to make it a big deal, as evident from the following aspects. “The first one is the provocative and polarising enactment of CAA 2019 and the second, the mass upsurge against it seen in tandem with the NPR exercise . The third is the repression and violence unleashed on the protesters by both the state and fugitive thugs while the fourth is a potential crisis of federalism manifested by a showdown between several states and the Central dispensation over the vital issue of citizenship’‘, he added.
Urging those in power to acknowledge the diverse character of the country , Mr. Ram also pointed to the success of the farmers protest as a demonstration of the country’s democratic resilience.
Sabu Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, MGU, inaugurated the programme while Varghese C. Joshua, principal, CMS College, presided over. Mr. Ram was appointed professor of the newly-instituted Chair — a joint initiative by the university and the CMS college, in July 2021.
This story first appeared on thehindu.com