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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Cometh elections, cometh CAA: Amit Shah arms Modi government with another polarising plank

'The CAA is an act (law) of the country. It will be notified before the polls. There should be no confusion about it,' Shah said at the ET-Now Global Summit in Delhi

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 11.02.24, 06:50 AM
Amit Shah.

Amit Shah. File picture

Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA would be notified and implemented before the upcoming general election, appearing to arm the Narendra Modi government with another polarising plank ahead of the polls.

The CAA, passed by Parliament in December 2019, fast-tracks Indian citizenship for all refugees and asylum seekers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh except for the Muslims among them, and is therefore seen by many as violating the constitutional principle of secularism.

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“The CAA is an act (law) of the country. It will be notified before the polls. There should be no confusion about it,” Shah said at the ET-Now Global Summit in Delhi.

Shah added: “Our Muslim community is being misled and instigated — the CAA is only meant to give citizenship to those who came to India after facing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It is not for snatching anyone’s Indian citizenship.”

However, coupled with the promised update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) — which will seek to weed out non-citizens based on select documents, including decades-old legacy papers — the CAA can well be seen as a potential threat to Indian Muslims.

The CAA benefits persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians who came over to India before December 31, 2014, from the three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries.

However, the rules for the act have not been framed over the past four years, mainly because of the Covid disruption.

The CAA had triggered countrywide protests between December 2019 and March 2020 — till the pandemic struck — the most prominent of them being the 100-day women-led demonstration in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh. Police firing and related violence killed many protesters across the country.

The CAA is expected to bring electoral gain to the BJP in border states such as Bengal and Assam where illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been used as a political issue. A recent NRC update in Assam has already excluded lakhs of Hindus and Muslims from the citizens’ list.

The BJP had used the promise of implementing the CAA as a polarising plank during the 2021 Assembly polls in Bengal, where 30 per cent of the population is Muslim. But the issue brought it little purchase and the party was routed.

Bengal BJP leaders have recently become vocal again about a swift implementation of the CAA, portraying it as a one-stop solution for all the problems faced by, for instance, the Matuas — a Hindu community most of whose members came over from Bangladesh.

State BJP leaders are said to have told their central leadership that if the CAA isn’t implemented at the earliest, the party would lose further ground in Bengal.

Shah on Saturday accused the Congress of backtracking on its alleged promise to implement a CAA of its own.

“The CAA was a promise of the Congress government. When the country was divided and minorities were persecuted in those countries, the Congress had assured the refugees that they were welcome in India and would be provided with Indian citizenship,” he said.

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