India's CAA deepens “geopolitical schisms” in South Asia, say 14 regional activists

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 December 2019, 20:05 GMT]
Fourteen academics, rights activists and writers from South Asia, including the renowned Sinhala academic Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda, have issued a joint statement condemning the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the Hindu nationalist BJP in India. They were identifying themselves as “South Asian citizens” in issuing the statement. The CAA has the potential of “deepening geopolitical schisms” among the countries of South Asia, which should be striving for peace and mutual understanding, the statement issued by the fourteen South Asians said.

The “South Asians” were questioning the logic of the Indian Government when there are also more substantial numbers of Muslims of different sects in the three selected countries enduring sectarian strife.

“What of the thousands of Tamil refugees of Sri Lanka, and the Rohingya who are so vulnerable in Myanmar and as refugees in Bangladesh,” they asked.

The CAA, which makes no reference to Muslims, proposes Indian citizenship for individuals whom it refers as belonging to ‘persecuted’ minorities, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from three of its neighbouring countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The CAA along with the move for a National Register of Citizens, favouring Indian citizenship to ‘non-Muslims’ from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are seen also as part of a concerted move by Narendra Modi’s government to transform the secular nature of India’s constitution and strengthen its unitary character in favour of the rising North Indian Hindutva.

The latest discrimination comes after India’s revocation of the special status of Kashmir in August 2019 at a time Narendra Modi has strengthened security ties with USA, Japan and Australia (Quad partners) against China and Pakistan.

The institutionalisation of Islamophobia has sparked off protests across India during the past two weeks. At least 25 people have been killed and several injured as the Indian authorities stepped up their response to the protests. The police have also shut down internet access at several places.

Full text of the statement follows:

Statement of South Asian Independent Citizens on India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

26 December 2019

We independent citizens of countries neighbouring India hereby register our reservations about the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted by India’s Parliament, which aims to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from three select countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The Act is discriminatory at the first instance because it is targeted against Muslims beyond the stated intent of the law. It is unacceptable for a country with a secular Constitution to distinguish between foreign citizens on the basis of religion. Further, the Act has the potential of deepening geopolitical schisms among the countries of South Asia, which should be striving for peace and mutual understanding.

We are further concerned that the announced India-wide National Register of Citizens or an adapted exercise, planned as follow-up to the CAA, will make vulnerable tens of millions of people. As observers of India, we had not understood citizenship to be a major problem in the country when compared to many other pressing issues of social justice. We fear that such a programme will have deadly fallout, particularly for the 200 million Muslims living under the umbrella of a secular Constitution of India.

The signatories believe that India’s plans for growth and equity is being hurt by ill-advised attempts at social engineering, and this in turn will impact the larger South Asian region. A weakened, insular India would not be able to take a stand on urgent matters confronting humanity, such as nuclear weaponisation, the climate crisis, hi-tech surveillance and runaway pollution.

We question the logic of the Indian Government wanting to extend citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians and Sikhs when there are also larger numbers of Muslims of different sects in the three selected countries enduring sectarian strife. These include Ahmedia and Shia, particularly Hazara, of Pakistan and Ahmediya of Bangladesh. What of the thousands of Tamil refugees of Sri Lanka, and the Rohingya who are so vulnerable in Myanmar and as refugees in Bangladesh?

If the authorities in New Delhi were seeking the well-being of religious minorities in the three selected countries, it should have engaged in sustained diplomatic effort to ensure their protection. We believe that with its action the Government of India has made religious minorities in the three countries more vulnerable than they were earlier.

The most logical approach for India is to join the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, and to be open to foreigners of any faith or persuasion who are in distress. To select non-citizens based on faith is in defiance of basic human values.

The rest of South Asia has long appreciated the spirit of inclusion and social justice that has marked modern India, a country that has stood for democracy, pluralism and freedom. We signatories of this statement are distressed by the decisive majoritarian turn in India, and the intolerance evident in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent.

A democratic, pluralist India that promotes solidarity, co-existence and mutual respect among diverse ethnic, religious and cultural communities of citizens within its borders is vital for a peaceful and stable South Asia.

Signatories:

Arif Hasan, Karachi
Beena Sarwar, Karachi
Hameeda Hossain, Dhaka
I.A. Rehman, Lahore
Jayadeva Uyangoda, Colombo
Kanak Mani Dixit, Lalitpur
Mahesh Maskey, Kathmandu
Mubashir Hasan, Lahore
NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, Lalitpur
Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islamabad
Pratyoush Onta, Lalitpur
Serajul Islam Choudhury, Dhaka
Shahidul Alam, Dhaka
Sumathy Sivamohan, Peradeniya

 

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