India needs a National Register For Unemployment (NRU) Not the CAA and NRC

Co- written by, Wakeel Ahmed, Badre Alam Khan and Wasim Ahsan


  After the passing the unconstitutional CAA by the Indian Parliament on 12th December, 2019;  it has created a massive unrest at the nation-wide and as a result, students, Left and secular forces have started opposing the said Act on the grounds of violating the basic tenants of our democratic Constitution and its principles like secularism, pluralism and diversity. While opposing the Act, a leading social scientist and prominent political activist Yogendra Yadav stressed that given the extremely bad situations of our country’s unemployment conditions; the ruling government must pay attention on preparing the National Register for Unemployment (NRU) rather than implementing noxious Act like CAA and NRC.

Under the leadership of Modi-Shah duo, the Indian society, politics and economy are passing through critical phase and as result a massive student protests spurred out after the CAA passed in the Indian Parliament. Contrary to the government claim of Sabka Sath, sabka Vikas and sabka vishwas, Indian society has been continuously witnessing the series of attacks on the students, dalits, minorities, women and toiling masses at large. It has not only undermined their fundamental rights as citizens of India but also the basic secular structure of the Indian Constitution.

Ever since the BJP government came to power in 2019, a series of anti-democratic laws have been passed by the Indian Parliament such as triple talaq, dilution of RTI, UAPA, Article 370 and finally CAA which include communities like Sikhs, Jains, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians except refugee Muslims who flee from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh due to the threat of religious persecutions. This step taken by the ruling government is being opposed on the grounds of specially targeting the one particular religious community namely  Muslims and Tamil Sri Lankan refugees coming from neighboring countries. To note that most of the Chief Ministers of the respective states are also opposing the CAA and NRC.  Even the BJP leader and Lok Sabha M.P. Pinaki Mishra said that, “I can’t prove my own citizenship- I don’t have a birth certificate.” (See the interview in the Indian Express, December 19, 2019).

Emphatically, it could be said that when the person who is part of ruling government would not be able to prove his citizenship, how could we think and imagine about those people who are uneducated, poor, vulnerable sections of our society who are living in urban and rural including the flood affected and forest areas of our country can prove their identities. The ruling government cannot suppress democratic voices which are arising from democratic movements throughout India particularly from universities like JMI, AMU, JNU and DU and other universities against a new citizenship law.

It is fascinating that movement against the CAA is being joined by all sections of society such as social activists, castes/class, religious groups and regions etc. Beside, these forces, even kids with their mothers are enthusiastically also taking part and raising the slogans against the CAA and NRC. It is a crucial to note that besides the forces mentioned above, Students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Jamia’s Teachers Association (JTA) have been playing a significant role in terms of widening and sustaining the protests, demonstrations and hunger strikes at several places like, Jamia Nagar, Raj Ghat, ITO, India Gate and Jantar Mantar with the support of secular parties, democratic forces and civil society groups. And now it has acquired, the “Pan-Indian character” because it has been widely spread-out and widened by the participations from all walks of life and its outreach is visible (against the CAA and NRC) peaceful and democratic manner in the larger public sphere.

In his just published article RSS ideologue and BJP M.P Rajya Sabha, Rakesh Sinha has said that the CAA is not against the principle of secularism and constitutional morality. For him, the Act has widened the concept of citizenship by including the religiously persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  As he writes, “it is time for Muslims to be part of this Indian tradition [her Civilizational ethos] rather than being fed the delusion that Modi- government is anti –minority”. (See Rakesh Sinha, “A deluded dissent”, The Indian Express, December 24, 2019,p-13).

Contrary to Sinha , theorists of citizenship have argued that the idea of citizenship should be based on civic and humanistic values rather than confine to ethnicity, religion, race, gender and others sectarian/primordial identities. The Indian concept of citizenship is also based on the humanistic values which was emerged during the anti-colonial struggle (It was fought by the Hindus, Muslims and others shoulder to shoulder) and accordingly enshrined in our secular constitution.  In short, contrary to the many nations, idea of the Indian citizenship is based on ‘birth’ rather than race, creed, caste and religion etc. The CAA and NRC in its current forms and contents violates the basic structure of the Indian secularism and the Preamble of our democratic Constitution, as also underlined in the case of Kesavnanda Bharati . As the eminent Judge like H.R Khanna in this case stated, “State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion only” (see, the Indian Express, December 24 ,2019, p-13).

Besides, the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, clearly states that all are equal before the law. As it states, “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” It can be also substantiated by several human rights laws that highlighted in the domestic and the international humanitarian laws that define; these are natural and legal rights. Hence, the Act is directly in contradictions with the international norms and basic human rights. It is pertinent to note that India is party and signatory member of treaties like the International civil and political rights, CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979) and Child Rights. In short, on the basis of domestic and international l humanitarian laws, we argued that the present CAA and NRC are fundamentally anti-democratic that violates basic Human Rights as stated above. However, it is ironical to note that for Rakesh Sinha, the movement against the CAA is a part of ‘conspiracy’ against the ruling government.

In this respect, a noted scholar Ananya Vajpeyi stressed that we need to fight on all fronts. As she rightly mentions, “the battle against the Hindu Rashtra has to be fought simultaneously on all fronts- in electoral contests, in legislatures, in the courts, in the media, in social movements- but most of all, in universities”. (See Ananya Vajpeyi ‘The last bastions of secular India’, The Hindu, 19th December 2019)

Most of the scholars and activists have expressed their disagreement by saying that it directly contradicts with Constitutional morality, principles of diversity, secularism and pluralism.  A noted social scientist, Pratap Bhanu Mehta argues in his recent article that the present Act is discriminatory in nature and against the basic foundation of our Indian republic. While comparing the present moment (undeclared emergency) with the emergency imposed by the Indira Gandhi, Mehta says that fighting against the present regime (which is both communal and authoritarian in nature) is not easy task, because of complex situations. The ruling government has treated minorities especially Indian Muslims as a second class citizen, added by Mehta. While theorizing the ongoing movement, Mehta emphasized and wrote, ‘this movement will have to find out its own vocabulary, leadership, and strategy for moral and institutional regeneration’. (Pratab Bhanu Mehta, “Discrimination, not Justice,” The Indian Express, 19th December, 2019, p-12). Unlike earlier context of the emergency, this movement which is primarily headed by the potentially young generation of the students have to fight simultaneously both ‘State authoritarianism’ (suppressing and controlling the dissenting voices and calling them as anti-national and urban naxals) and ‘Communalism’ (which is being used as tools to polarize the Indian society on the basis of religion) unleashed by the present ruling regime.

Elsewhere we have underlined that in a given the grave situations the apex court must take cognizance and intervene in it and scrape the CAA immediately. But as of now Indian Judiciary is quite indifferent. However, still we are expecting the positive response from the Supreme Court in this deeply sensitive matter. It is unfortunate that the corporate-funded media and the BJP-RSS combine are relentlessly trying to portray- this democratic and peaceful movement led by the students and other democratic forces- in such manner that is actually misleading the people of India.

This ongoing movement against the CAA and NRC has helped to form the opinion of the people of Jharkhand against the ruling BJP government and they have defeated, in just concluded State assembly elections with huge margin. Given the adamant political stance of ruling government on the CAA and NRC, nobody is certain that how long this movement would continue. It is vital to note that since PM Modi-led BJP came to power on the plank of development for all and appeasement of none. However, after more than five years have been passed, the ruling dispensation has utterly failed to address the dismal conditions of unemployment (it is reported that unemployment rate in India is very high in compared to the last 45years) faced by the subaltern masses. That is why, Yogendra Yadav has underlined that government must prepare a National Register for Unemployment (NRU) rather than CAA and NRC as stated above. Besides, it appears that the movement is every-day energizing and educating the masses while evolving its own unique political vocabulary and hoping that through this massive social movement, the masses themselves can compel the existing regime to roll this Act back.

The Authors are Part of Jamia Fraternity.



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