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Resisting the law

Resisting the law

When the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh indicated that the Citizenship Amendment Act will have no place in their respective states, the Ministry of Home Affairs pointed out that the states have no power to reject the implementation of the new law on the grounds that the new legislation has been enacted under the Union List of the Schedule VII of the Constitution, hence it is a subject on which states have no power. The 97 subjects under the Union List of Schedule VII includes matters like defence, external affairs, railways, citizenship and naturalisation—the matters that will have a bearing on the people across the nation irrespective of government and ideology. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took a stand against the new law saying that "an anti-constitutional law will have no place" in his state. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said emphatically, "In your (BJP) manifesto, instead of development issues, you have put in a promise to divide the country. Why will citizenship be on the basis of religion? I will not accept this. We dare you…" Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said that the Act was "clearly unconstitutional", and that "Whatever decision is made at the Congress party forum on the Bill, will be applied in Chhattisgarh". In the brief list of opposition Chief Ministers expressing disagreement with the Union governments's new law, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also stood against it saying that his government would not allow the legislation to be implemented in his state. Beyond the political arena, civil society and well-informed and discerning citizenry have also vehemently expressed their disagreement with the new national law; this allows yet another glimpse into the far reaching implications of a decision that the Central government intends to enforce based on the sheer strength of representation it enjoys in Parliament. More than 720 jurists, writers, actors, activists and citizens have issued a statement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the National Register of Citizens, describing these as "misguided" and, worse, "unconstitutional". The new law makes a promise to entertain requests for refuge and citizenship to all those "persecuted minorities" from three Islamic neighbours, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who reached India either before 2014 or later. The special privileges now allowed to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from these three countries, very prominently single out Muslims for exclusion. The Ahmadiyas of Pakistan, and the asylum seekers from Myanmar—the Rohingyas, who have been known to suffer religious persecution at the hands of their government for whom religion is a criterion for governance, have been left out without any explanation. The only most obvious conclusion that could now be drawn is the communal intention behind this legislative exercise and this is a matter to be condemned at it is a blatant violation of the Constitutional principal of equality, protection for minorities, and secularism. With such a conspicuous exclusion of the significant minority of India, the government is only giving out the message loud and clear that with the majority it has in its support, minorities are of little concern to them. It is for the first time in Independent India that the Muslim community is openly and systemically labeled with a second-rate status. This fact alone is sufficient grounds to strongly reject the new law which is inherently divisive, discriminatory, and communal in character. Further, The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is in contravention with the Constitutional secular principles and is a violation of Articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21, which guarantee the right to equality, equality before the law and non-discriminatory treatment by the Indian state. The Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan has taken a particularly bold stand in calling out against the establishment, expressing that this is a law to serve the communal policies and is attack on India's secularism. "The CAB serves the communal policies of the Sangh Parivar and their devious plans to establish a non-secular state. The articles of the Constitution that relate to citizenship and fundamental rights are being violated here. India belongs to Indians of all kinds. Efforts to undermine this fact will only take our country backward...It will destroy our hard-fought freedom and we must not let that happen", he said. The situation unfolding across the country is ample proof that majoritarian rule is a state of disorder. In a healthy democracy, there needs to be space for alternate stands and all voices must be heard. It is not the government that is good or bad, but the decisions it makes.

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