CAB driving the Nation from campus to streets –students to scholars on board but not happy
Youth Movement the world over has shifted focus from social and national concerns to political and vested issues. In the wake of CAA/CAB protests involving student’s demonstrations, what captured the attention of the nation is arson, destruction of property, burning of buses and cars. Making headlines across the globe these protests have set the spotlight on students’ right to voice, and the police brutality that they are being subjected to.
The ripple effect of the CAB protest has spread to top universities of not only India but Oxford, Harvard, Yale and MIT. An article from Economic Times reveals that over 400 students from different US universities have issued a joint statement expressing solidarity with the CAA protesters.
The students and scholars at Oxford University staged a protest march to India House in London against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the police action on students.
What makes the Citizenship Amendment Act so controversial? To get to the bottom of this we need to know the Act and the amendments the government seeks to the original Act of 1955. Let’s take a brief look at the Act to understand the chaos.
What is the Citizenship Amendment Act
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides citizenship to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parses from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any documentary proofs.
The said amendment relates to the Citizenship Act 1955 and the main purpose of the bill is to make certain religious communities of illegal migrants or refugees eligible for Indian citizenship – in a fast-track manner. While the central government points out that the step taken is in view of persecution suffered by certain minorities, the bill is not discriminatory against the Muslims. The critiques point out that the bill grants Indian nationality only to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
The bill is seen as highly selective for some communities while omitting others which have led to the angry protests.
Anti-CAB protests rock the nation
The CAA protests known previously as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill protests are now, a series of ongoing protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act of December 2019. The reasons given for the protests by participating students, organizations and secular groups include alleged religious discrimination and brutality by the police on university campuses during demonstrations.
The protests started in Assam on 4 December 2019, after the bill was introduced and later, protests erupted in all of the major cities of India. The police brutality was widely criticized and resulted in protests across the country as a response.
The massive destruction caused by students in the wake of the protests has raised questions despite the mass support. Can students protest? Go on strike ?
Protest is integral to democracy
Strikes or protests provide ‘space’ for dissent and an invitation to dialogue. Very often violence and arson overshadow the very purpose of the struggle. Causing loss to public and private property disrupts the whole society.
The question is, while a student’s right to strike is upheld, ‘accountability’ for destruction and damages is seldom held!
On the other hand, police action within the legal framework is justified in preventing mob violence. But then it is said, power corrupts power. Taking authority in own hands and resorting to excesses, is a disservice to the nation. So how is India reacting to the on-going protests and the bill amendment?
Mixed reactions from across India have started pouring in. While some have welcomed the CAB’s objective to provide refuge to persecuted minorities others have criticized that the bill discriminates among the religious groups. Scientists, lawyers, and even film fraternity voiced their views.
Scholars from TIFR- Mumbai , IIT- Chennai, IISER , IIS- Delhi and other institutes of repute, called to scrap Citizenship Bill. A petition demanding that the bill be withdrawn in its current form was made about by a thousand scientists.
Noted scholar Ramchandra Guha tweeted :
“Some signatories are world-renowned scientists and other brilliant Ph.D. students. They work in our top institutes. This is the brainpower of India; not alleged ‘anti-nationals’.”
The Supreme Court was quick in issuing a stern warning to the protesting Jamia Milia Islamia University students asking them to stop the riots.
CJI Bobde said, “We will determine the rights but not in the atmosphere of riots. We don’t want to see videos (police action). If the violence and destruction of public property continue, we will not hear the case.”
While the country is responding, we ask “is India taking a unique step or have other nations set a precedent?
Anti-Migration And Citizenship Issues Are Global
Nations share borders and people migrate for various reasons. According to the United Nations report, the count of migrants reached 258 million in 2017. While world war II resulted in a mass exodus, migration and citizenship issues in India are characterized by religion, persecution, poverty and cross border terrorism. Several countries have shown resistance to the entry of migrants.
Apathy towards immigrants or refugees is not new. Several countries have set the precedence too. Hungary an oil-rich country built fence on its borders to block Serbia and Croatia Blocked by EU states, Serbia is seen as a ‘dumping ground’ for migrants. Italy presents a plan to accelerate the expulsion of migrants. The US policy, on the other hand, is to sign ‘safe third country’ agreements, say with countries like Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras and divert immigrants there.
Economists and scholars have repeatedly pointed out that nations should have inclusive policies and begin to look at the brighter side of migration.
Migration has some positives too! Could nations harness their benefits? Immigration can contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, attract highly skilled workers and high investment by their diaspora. So its time to ask if deciding ‘Who is in’ and ‘Who is out’ of the nation economic wisdom.
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