Religious minority communities in Pakistan bore the brunt of Partition. India embraced Muslims whole-heartedly even while Partition of the country was done on the grounds of religion while Pakistan adopted Islam as its state religion. While India protected the rights of the minority communities, Pakistan patronised their persecution, reflecting in the near wipeout of the population of Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Jain, Buddhist and Christians.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India guarantees equality to all citizens. India, since Independence, has demonstrated that the citizens enjoyed unhindered the right to equality in all walks of life. The Constitution at the same time empowers the executive to frame policies for affirmative action for sections of the citizens who have faced discrimination over a long period of time leading to their socially disadvantaged status. This enabled Parliament to enact laws to extend benefits of reservation to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Castes and Economically Weaker Sections. The Supreme Court has held all the laws enacted to give effect to affirmative action valid. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is another affirmative action to provide relief to the minority communities who have faced religious persecution. They had to flee to India because they were persecuted for their faith. The government extends benefits to religious minority institutions on the grounds of affirmative action, which doesn’t violate Article 14.
The preamble of the Constitution affirms that India is a secular country. The preamble, at the same time, is for the citizens of India, and the ideals enshrined there are not applicable for the non-citizens. The CAB in no way impinges upon the rights of the minority communities in India. The legislation is not aimed at just one particular religion, for it’s based on reasonable classification addressing the existential challenge for a group of religious minorities. The classification, thus, is legally sound, and has precedents in the past few decades when India extended similar benefits to the people fleeing from Uganda and Sri Lanka.
To conclude, the Bill is a firm step in the direction to shut the doors on illegal infiltrators who have been encouraged by a few political parties for electoral gains.
GVL Narasimha Rao
Rajya Sabha member and BJP spokesperson