This is my take on the entire CAA/NRC protests ongoing in India and what it means to a non-resident Indian in Ireland.
Its funny how people fail to realize that countries are imaginary institutions with borders which are blurred at best. The entire concept (and by that I refer to its boundaries) of today’s India is very different from the British Indian Empire. But lets focus on the current definition of India. What does it mean?
I have been called an anti-national by many Indians. But for me the definition of Indians is the quite simple: follow the spirit of the Indian constitution. But isn’t that arbitrary as well? Probably, but being in a pluralistic country, speaking a particular language and following certain cultural practices can hardly be the definition of being Indian. And one of the spirits of the constitution is secularism. The preamble to the Indian constitution says just as much:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
And secularism is a very important principle. It is what differentiates us from Pakistan which was formed on religious lines. We don’t discriminate on the basis of religion.
Sometimes people have asked me, “If your constitution is secular, why are some religions given the minority status?” It again comes back to the concept of “Justice”. We thrive on pluralism. If a particular way of life is threatened, and it does not impact the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity principles, we will try to protect it. In the 2006 Sachar committee, it was mentioned that the Muslims are worse off in socio-economic conditions than the Dalits. Of course, some people would then say, “Well its their fault that they have so many kids and that they don’t focus on education.” Just like it is the fault of the black people that they are still marginalized in the US and have a far lower socio-economic status than the other races.
What irks me the most about the Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2019 is that it violates the secularism principle of the Indian constitution. Secularism is a strong word which has formed the basis of this country. And the bill is an indirect attack on the Muslims in India. I strongly protest against this.
“But it does not impact the Muslims in India”. But it does. This is testing of waters by the BJP government to see how far they can get away with by attacking the Muslim community in India.
“But this bill is trying to protect the minorities in the neighboring countries!” First of all it is not. The amendment to the Citizenship Act will help approximately 30k people who entered India before December 2014 (as per the Intelligence Bureau). Second of all, if we are so concerned with protecting the rights of minorities in neighboring countries, why have the Act excluded the Rohingyas of Myanmar and Ahmedis of Pakistan.
“But you see the protests have become so violent.” Unfortunately, not every Indian is Gandhi. The Government rolled the dice first and a backlash was expected. If the Government did not see this coming, it was a big failure on part of the Government. Or maybe they did see this coming and wanted an excuse to paint all Muslims as evil. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi can be many things, but I don’t think they are so incompetent to not foresee the backlash from the Muslim community.
And then there is downright Islamophobia. Some friends have told me, “How can you not see the cancer of Islam spreading across Europe having studied in Belgium itself?”. Refugees fleeing war (which, by the way, could have been prevented had the liberals not stopped some of the Western European countries from intervening in the crisis in Syria and Yemen when it was in its nascent stages) does not really strike me as “cancer”. I have worked with people from many countries and nobody was as full of shit as people who make comments like these.
We need a new India or atleast an organization willing to work to build a new India. Without a new India, polarizing political parties will keep coming to power either at the state level or at federal level. And each time, they will wreak havoc. The new organization needs to focus on three things:
- Social change based on data and statistics: This is taking a leaf out of Bill Gates’ work on eradication of polio. Data can give insights on how a particular section of the population is doing. We need to reach out to those communities that are marginalized and need to yank them forward. I am always scared that data can be manipulated to fit any narrative but we need to be honest about it.
- Education: Modern education. Starting from bureaucrats to bank clerks to farmers, they need to be introduced to the latest in technology. This can be done through a PPP model. Focus on environment needs to be a key aspect as well.
- Health infrastructure and health education: A healthy population equals huge savings in healthcare costs in the future. People in all sections of the society needs to be sensitized to the impact of food that they are eating on their health.