Punjab Pulse News Bureau
- A discussion on the “Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA): Implications for Punjab” was organised by the Centre for Socio-Cultural Studies (CSCS), Punjab, on 07 February 2020, at the Union Territory State Guest House in Chandigarh. The discussion was a follow-up of many inputs shared by the members of the Think Tank and others associated with it.
- The invitees were carefully selected from among prominent personalities in the domain of Defence Services, Police Services, Academicians, Journalists and Lawyers among others. Members of some families from Pakistan that have taken refuge in Punjab, India, were also present to give their firsthand account to the discussants.
- While welcoming the invitees, team CSCS highlighted the importance of the discussion. It was clarified that discussion would go beyond establishing the righteousness, constitutional validity and need of the bill since these factors have already been accepted. The discussion was proposed to cover the following aspects:-
- An Act passed by Parliament is the will of the people of India and cannot be challenged on streets by mobs.
- Which nation-state, if not India, will provide shelter to persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh?
- Due to vested political interests, merits and demerits of the CAA have not been fully decoded.
- When people link CAA with National Register of Citizens they are merely voicing apprehensions. The government has clarified that the two are not interrelated.
- Confusing and conflicting utterances are negatively impacting the communal harmony of the Nation.
- Since the agenda was Punjab centric, it was highlighted by the moderator that nowhere in comments against CAA can be seen even an iota of sensitivity for the sentiments of the Sikh community and other Punjabis who are being persecuted in the most dastardly manner in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The fallacy of the negative predictions was also highlighted.
- No debate on the persecution of non-Muslims in our neighbourhood has ever been initiated by the Muslim community. In fact, attempts have been made to hide the truth or push it under the carpet.
- Those who are defining CAA as “divisive” have failed to provide cogent reasons for their opposition
- Passing of resolutions in state assemblies against an act passed by parliament of the country is bound to have grave repercussions on our sovereignty and nationhood in the future.
- Media, has been extremely biased in their presentations, some even deliberately untruthful.
- The Supreme Court has refused a stay on CAA and will be addressing 143 petitions that have been filed on the subject. It would be best to wait for the decision of the Court.
Points Highlighted by Refugees
- In the exercise to understand the actual situation of such refugees, all of whom were from Pakistan, the following got highlighted.
(a) The level of persecution, discrimination and subjugation of minorities in Pakistan is so high that there is no option for them but to get out of the country.
(c) The minorities in Pakistan feel that India is the only place where they can go to for which reason the entire exodus is towards India.
(b) With mass exodus being a reality, the Government of Pakistan has made Visa rules more stringent. Minorities, however, continue to come in from Afghanistan with great difficulty and danger.
(d) A sizeable number among the refugees have affinity with Punjab. Their family members who managed to come out earlier are also are settled here.
(e) There are about 400 refugee families that have been in Punjab for long periods of time ranging from 20 years plus to about ten years now. After1992, nobody has got full citizenship.
(i) Such families have acquired documents like Aadhar Card, Ration Card etc. but have, as yet, not been given the Citizenship Certificate.
(ii) Others need to consistently get their visa extended, which is a lengthy, complicated and expensive process, something that they can ill afford.
(ii) The gaps in documents are coming in the way of their progress and routine existence. Without passports they cannot go out of the country; they cannot apply for jobs and get enrolled in government education institutions etc.
(f) Apart from those who came earlier, there are also 400 plus individuals who have no documents whatsoever, and will be directly impacted by seamless application of the CAA.
- While discussing the dimension of the problem it was brought out that since 2013, there are more than one Lakh people of Pakistani origin who came to India on bonafide Visa and have not gone back. Many of these are hiding their identity and a large number are in Punjab. CAA is the only instrument that can provide to them the assistance on merit that they require so urgently.
- On the matter of the Resolution against CAA passed in the state assembly of Punjab, the following was opined:-
(a) Resolution went through due to majority enjoyed by the Congress party in the state assembly.
(b) It was initiated to placate the senior national leaders of the party.
(c) It did not keep in mind the problems of the Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus being persecuted in Pakistan and Afghanistan
(d) It was both illegal and unconstitutional. The Government of Punjab is, by law, bound to apply the provisions of CAA in Punjab as are other state governments in the country too.
- It was appreciated that the Government of Punjab would try to put road blocks in application of the Act for which reason the Government of India would be well advised to consider alternative means like online processes.
- While comparing the resolution against CAA passed by the Kerala Assembly (which is also Congress centric) it was said that politics on the subject can be played in Kerala where there may not be a single person affected by the Act, but to do so in Punjab amounts to placing politics over a humanitarian responsibility of the state towards those who are a part of our own fraternity and unfortunately caught in a web of persecution.
- There is a need to give assurances to the beleaguered minorities in Pakistan who wish to make a life in Indian Punjab that they are welcomed as brothers and that their interests will be well looked after.
- Punjab should, in fact, to evolve procedures and process by which those afflicted Punjabis’ in Pakistan, who are now finding it difficult to come out due to restrictions imposed, can be facilitated. They do have a right to lead a dignified life in a free, democratic environment.
- While expressing serious concern with respect to the unnecessary and misdirected protests in various parts of the country against the CAA, it was emphasised that Punjab should remain isolated from such incidents and instead look for alternatives to ensure communal amity which is the hallmark of the state.
- It was highlighted that many Muslim refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar were also coming to Punjab. There is a directive from the Court that such movement should be informed to authorities but the same is not being done.
- Given the well established justification for and righteousness of CAA, the need for its early implementation at the national level was emphasised upon.
- There was overwhelming endorsement among the discussants for the launch of a political movement, as also wide dissemination of the issue on social media, to ensure that people of Punjab realise the true implication and significance of the CAA for Punjab and the need for its application in true spirit in the state.
Summary and Conclusion
- In conclusion the main factors are summarised in point form as given below:-
(a) CAA is righteous and justified; it needs early application throughout the nation.
(b) Punjab has a significant role to play in application of CAA in view of the large m number of people of Punjabi origin being affected
(c) Such refugees who are already in Punjab need to be given citizenship under the provisions of the act at the earliest.
(d) Processes need to be evolved to facilitate movement back into Punjab of those Punjabis in Islamic countries who continue to be persecuted.
(e) Punjab should remain in the forefront for maintaining harmony between communities and remain isolated from the misdirected protests.
(f) The Congress led Government of Punjab should roll back the resolution passed against CAA, the same being illegal and unconstitutional
- The government needs to progress on the application of CAA with utmost sensitivity and urgency while keeping the interests of the Nations and the sentiments of the people in mind.