Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—BJP’s election manifesto for the West Bengal promising to implement Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in the first cabinet meeting after forming the government in the state has invited condemnation from people from all walks of life-from political spectrum to human rights and social activists.
The manifesto was released at a press conference in Kolkata on Sunday by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Former Congress Minister P Chidambaram, reacting to the announcement, said that the BJP had revealed its true face.
“The intent is to intimidate and put fear in the minds of millions of poor and law abiding citizens, especially Muslims, and threaten them with incarceration in detention camps. The people of Assam and Bengal must vote decisively to defeat the BJP and its poisonous agenda”, he tweeted.
The former minister said, “The CAA will divide the country, discriminate against Muslims and deprive millions of Indians of their birth-right of citizenship”.
All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) Communication Department chief Randeep Singh Surjewala said Amit Shah’s announcement on CAA implementation is “BJP’s doublespeak and deception”.
He said that while it is silent on CAA in Assam and Tamil Nadu, it declares to implement CAA in first cabinet meeting. “We challenge Amit shah to say the same on CAA implementation in Assam as he is saying in Bengal”, Surjewala said.
All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat (AIMMM) president Navaid Hamid described Amit Shah’s announcement to implement CAA in West Bengal in first cabinet meeting itself as “hate agenda of the BJP”.
“But they can do it only if they come to power. They can’t come to power in West Bengal. They are day dreaming. It is just like “Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne (day dreaming for BJP) for BJP and will never turn into reality”, said Hamid.
He said that Justice (retd) Gopal Gowda, during a book release on Sunday, said that “CAA is unconstitutional since it distinguishes between persons on the basis of religion”.
Justice Gowda, in his speech, said that the Supreme Court Constitution Bench in 1994 in S R Bommai case made it clear that no law could be enacted by the Parliament or a state legislature on the basis of religion.
AIMMM leader said that a total of 145 appeals against CAA were already pending before the Supreme Court. “Why the Government of India is in a hurry to implement it? It should wait for the verdict of the court”, said Hamid. He said that CAA will not stand the legal test and fall.
“The announcement of Amit shah indicates the duplicity of BJP. While it wants to implement CAA in WB, it is not ready to do the same in Assam despite the fact that NRC was conducted under supervision of the Supreme Court in Assam. This proves that BJP will do only what it suits its political agenda which is based on hatred against Muslims”, Hamid commented.
145 petitions pending in Supreme Court against CAA
As many as 145 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutional validity of the law after it CAA passed by the Parliament in November 2019.
Among the petitioners included IUML leaders as also Jairam Ramesh of the Congress. The IUML was the first to file the petition in the Supreme Court against the CAA in December 2019.
However, the SC had declined to stay the law while directing the Centre to educate the people about the intention behind the legislation of the new citizenship law.
The last hearing in the case was held on March 3, 2020.
In his petition, Advocate Haris Beeran, who represented IUML in the apex court, had said, “Since the CAA has been unprecedented in many ways — be it the nature of amendment which strikes at the root of the Basic Structure of the Constitution or the protests it has evoked across the nation or the panic among the people that they will be driven out of the country — it would be in the best interest of all that the Supreme Court hears the case at the earliest and put at rest these issues.”
The CAA provides for grant of fast citizenship through a process of naturalisation to persons from six religious communities, other than Muslims, who have escaped persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The petitioners challenging the law argued that since the law is based on religion, it is in violation of principles of secularism and right to equality as enshrined in the basic structure of the Constitution.
While the Ministry of Home Affairs has been maintaining that the law is not against Indian Muslims, Muslim academicians and intellectuals believe that a large population of Indian Muslims would be reduced to stateless citizens if CAA is implemented. All Indian citizens, through a process of National Register of Citizens, would be asked to prove themselves to be Indian citizens based on certain documents like date and place of birth of the persons themselves and that of both of their parents. In case one is not able to clear the NRC exercise, he or she will be declared foreigner as happened in Assam. With CAA in place, non-Muslims having failed to clear NRC process, would be given Indian citizenship through a process of naturalisation but that provision is not available for Muslims. And Hence, the opposition to CAA from Indian Muslims.