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Mislaid moral compass

Mislaid moral compass

The new citizenship law has wreaked havoc but strangely the ruling dispensation focusses more about the speedy implementation of the same rather than addressing dissent. Several protests sprung up across the country with the passing of the controversial law and yet, there has been no attempt from the government to heed to the difference of opinion. Naturally, the Supreme Court was involved in the matter as the custodian of the Constitution and is now gearing up to put the controversial law up for a test of constitutionality. But judicial processes, even constitutional ones, are not modern-day press-button and solved kinds. They take time. When the matter convened on January 22, the Court gave the Centre time of 4 weeks to file its response. With a plethora of petitions against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and a sea of protests in the country, the agitation against the law was more than evident. To show solidarity, Indians across the globe in their respective places carried out a procession to oppose the law. Back home, state machinery utilised the draconian section of laws to curb protests. Section 144 was arbitrarily used to prevent large gatherings. Sedition was slapped on a school in Bidar over anti-CAA play staged by children. The National Security Act and Public Safety Act — laws allowing preventive detention — used in specific cases. Police crackdown on Central university over CAA protests in the National Capital. In fact, the entire Delhi Assembly election happened in the backdrop of anti-CAA protests. In what was termed as one of the most toxic campaigns ever, BJP's hatred-filled polarising campaign only signalled gross apathy for protestors at Shaheen Bagh. Union Home Minister's statements were enough to decipher that feeling. Braving the harsh winter and even rains, Shaheen Bagh has grown to become a symbol of anti-CAA protests across the country, especially in its characteristic feature of being led by women. It is disregarding on a public prosecutor's part to note that protestors are defending themselves by forwarding women in protests as this attitude simply dismisses the ardent effort made by women and students in Delhi to spearhead the dissent. One must be really indifferent to witness three months of non-stop protests and still not comprehend the rising feeling of distrust amongst citizens. All the local agitation did not bother the government as much as the purported resolution against the law that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) came close to vote for. A move by MEPs in this regard was enough for the current dispensation to reach out to MEPs via diplomats. In a way, it did yield something as the MEPs decided to defer the vote. Yet, apprehensions persist. The United Nation's Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed concern for Muslims in India. Pakistan newspaper The Dawn quoted Guterres who asserted the "risk of statelessness for two million Muslims excluded by the divisive Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by the Indian Parliament". His concern was backed from various reports that shed light on Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 back on August 5, 2019. Those reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc., do not posit a very healthy picture of a developing Kashmir as the government would argue. Only yesterday, a legislative report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) cautioned that due to CAA and NRC — which are based on the Hindutva ideology of BJP — Muslims may become stateless in India. USCIRF had already condemned the law when it was a bill and, in turn, India had condemned the "inaccurate" and "unwarranted" comments made by USCIRF. It had reasserted that the CAA aims at providing expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The furore stirred by the controversial law has only made the country engrossed in unnecessary turmoil. And, witnessing the furore, the government could have halted the process of remedying the "historic wrong" — that it asserts was done against the persecuted Hindus — and lend its ears to the dissent. In a rather stereotypical fashion, the Central government labels the anti-CAA agitation as opposition fuelled when in reality, it is the same voter that voted BJP to a landslide majority in the Lok Sabha elections that is protesting against its ill-conceived law that offers citizenship based on religion, violating the basic structure of the Constitution. Government aside, the zeal of anti-CAA protestors does reflect a complete embracing of India's Constitution as well as communal harmony that exists in its diverse culture. In students, women and fellow protestors, India sees a consciousness that is willing to travel the length to protect the sanctity of the Constitution despite state efforts to flout it. Many have hailed how protests and dissent are features of democracy and India standing up against the contentious legislation is a live example of people exercising those features. There are two questions that hover before the SC assesses the constitutional validity of the law. First, should SC repeal it, what face does this government have in front of an entire country? And second, should somehow, CAA miraculously passes judicial scrutiny, what lies ahead for India?

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