Protests Against Citizenship Bill Intensified in Assam; ‘Will Mark a Victory of Jinnah’s Ideology Over Gandhi’s’: Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor

Tharoor said the Bill not only singles out the Muslims but also goes against the historic legacy

DESPARDES — Protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) have intensified in the northeastern state of Assam ahead of the BJP-led government in New Delhi tabling it in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on Monday.

The legislation seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis (not Muslims) from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India till December 31, 2014, and is expected to be passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday and tabled in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) the next day.

The ruling BJP has issued whip to all its Lok Sabha members to remain present in the House for three days starting from December 9.

The controversial bill seeks to amend the six-decade-old Citizenship Act which “will mark a victory of Jinnah’s ideology over Gandhi’s”, Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Sunday.

In an interview with news agency PTI, Tharoor accused the BJP-led NDA of singling out “one community” — the Muslims.

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Calling it a cynical political exercise to further single out and disenfranchise an entire community in India and in doing so, “a betrayal of all that was good and noble about our civilization”, Tharoor asserted that “it will reduce us to a Hindutva version of Pakistan”.

Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s ideology of “two-nations” gave birth to an independent Pakistan in 1947, as British colonial power withdrew from the subcontinent.

Since then, India led by Nehru family espoused secularism as cornerstone of India’s polity and lifestyle until PM Modi’s rise in 2000s injected Hindu identity in its manifesto.

Muslims from across the country are up against the contentious bill as it is excluding them from the citizenship, and would mark a U-turn toward religious identity for the largest democracy in the world, says India observers.

Civil rights group United Against Hate held a massive protest against the bill at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday urging people to register their protest against this legislation.

Security has been tightened across the state in view of the protests and tabling of CAB in India’s Parliament. Assam Police have reportedly urged the public not to spread hate messages and fake news related to the legislation.

Tharoor Speaks Out

Tharoor opined that religion cannot be the basis of citizenship and by making it a part of the Bill, the BJP has paved the way for Jinnah’s idea of a nation — where religion would be intrinsic to nationhood — to take root in India. “The passage of this Bill will mark the definitive victory of Jinnah’s thinking over Mahatma Gandhi’s. How ironic that it should be the stridently chauvinistic BJP that ensures the final vindication of Mohammad Ali Jinnah,” the Congress leader said.

“Mahatma Gandhi, (Jawaharlal) Nehru, Maulana (Abul Kalam) Azad, Dr Ambedkar believed the opposite, that religion had nothing to do with nationhood. Theirs was the idea of India and they created a free country for all people of all religions, regions, castes and languages,” Tharoor said.

Tharoor said the Bill not only singles out the Muslims but also goes against the historic legacy that Hindus were proud to lay claim to. “Swami Vivekananda had famously told the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 that he was proud to speak for a land that has always offered refuge to the persecuted of all nations and faiths,” he said.

“We lived up to Vivekananda’s values in giving shelter to Tibetan refugees, the Bahai community, Sri Lankan Tamils, and 10 million Bangladeshis – the largest refugee exodus in human history – without ever asking about their religion,” he added.