India is not just a land, people or state but India is an idea. An idea which stands for its glorious history of accommodation, harmony, tolerance and peaceful co-existence. This idea of India was and is not state-centric but society centred. This society centred Indian system exists since time immemorial and known as Bhartiya or Hindu Rashtra. ‘Hindu’ here does not connote a religion but the geo-culture ethos of the land. Those who have lived here since long or came and settled here were known as Hindus. This land has welcomed and accepted people – invaders, travellers, merchants or the persecuted with an open heart. Menander who won on battleground became Milind here after spiritual discourse. Persecuted communities like Parsis and Jews were welcomed and given land and resources to settle down. Jews wrote in their official document that India was the only land where they were not exploited and suppressed when they were thrown out of their own land taking refuge in different parts of the world. India is in essence a celebration of plurality of people, culture and ideas.
In the modern state system, sovereignty and citizenship have become important along with other modern concepts. The current Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is an effort to maintain the glorious tradition of giving refuge, respect and rehabilitation to the persecuted people while also maintaining the sanctity of the citizenship law and sovereignty of the Indian state.
India or any modern state cannot offer citizenship randomly to any individual of neighbouring country or otherwise whether they are friends or hostiles. There is a due process which one has to follow to be granted citizenship. That route was always open and no sanctions have been imposed on that process. Famous singer Adnan Sami, who got Indian citizenship after following due process, is an example of this. Many industrialised counties issue work permit for few years which can be renewed or after few years one can apply for citizenship in these countries.
The current Citizenship Act is for those persecuted people who have been living in India since long and who do not have the option to go back. Even while giving citizenship to them, due process will be followed by the competent authorities. CAA and NRC is not a religion-based exercise but a simple requirement-based formula and whoever is not eligible to be included in it will be sent out of country. CAA should not be seen in the binaries of Hindus and Muslims and should be understood in terms of Illegal migrants and persecuted individuals.
Even before CAA, many other persecuted groups were granted citizenships through especial measures. During Partition, the groups that came to India and received citizenship were given the same on the basis of religion. CAA does not stop any future governments to not open gates for other persecuted groups. Not only BJP but Communists, Congress and other political parties have raised demands, passed resolutions for granting citizenships to persecuted groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Now a sizeable number of so-called intellectuals are supporting the cause of secularism with those who are raising the call of Allah-u-Akbar and asking for Khilafat 2.0. Pseudo-secular’s and so-called liberals are fanning confusion about CAA and inciting people for political and religious mobilisation outside the course of law which will only complicate the issue. This category of thinking class is playing with the emotions of a community and using them as a weapon to destabilise the current central government. Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy, but rule of law must prevail.
By extending citizenship to the persecuted individuals of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Modi Government is simply defending the idea of India for which every Indian stands firmly.