Nitish Should Offer a Logical Retort to the CAA Opponents

Pavan Varma, Nitish Kumar, and Prashant Kishore.

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At least two of the Nitish’s hand-picked functionaries of the Janata Dal (U) -- Pawan Varma and Prashant Kishor -- sought to publicly embarrass their boss by questioning his support to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The two might have liked Nitish to distance himself and the party from the BJP or flip to the other side to defeat the agenda of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

However, that didn’t happen so far. Instead, Nitish retorted angrily.

Both Pawan and Prashant must realize that they owe their political existence to a more matured mentor, Nitish Kumar. Nitish has a better understanding of the issues involved and, as a leader, he gets to decide and execute the next political move. He might have sought advice from these two associates, but not a lecture.

Nitish appeared to be infuriated at the attempt to bring his private conversations into the open and not discussing the policy matters at proper party forums. He should, however, offer a logical retort to the dissidents and the people of Bihar with a view to convincing them of the correctness of the position taken by him.

Pawan Varma, a former Indian Foreign officer and a former JD(U) member of the Rajya Sabha, in his letter, asked Nitish to present an “ideological clarity” and asserted that the three icons of the JD(U) -- Gandhi, Lohia and JP -- must have disapproved of the CAA.

Not true. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi, at a morning prayer meeting one month before his assassination, had pleaded for granting citizenship to the displaced Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan. After visiting the riot affected Muslims of Noakhali district in the former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), he was planning to visit the religiously persecuted minorities of Pakistan. He was unfortunately assassinated before he could actively take up their cause.

Then, the first resolution passed by the Working Committee of the Congress Party on 24 Nov 1947 committed itself to giving citizenship to those Hindus and Sikhs who were coming to India because of religious persecution. Only two communities were mentioned at that time. The Christians, the Buddhists and the Parsis were added this time around.

As recently as in December 2003, Manmohan Singh, the leader of the opposition at the time, urged LK Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Minister (on the floor of the Parliament) to show a generous gesture to the persecuted religious minorities from the three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and grant them Citizenship.

With pride, Nitish must tell his party persons as well as people at large that a longstanding promise had been delivered by his governing Alliance.

In the current political atmosphere when a large number of Muslims seem to have been fed with fear and misinformation, Nitish can assuage them by convincing that the CAA had nothing to do with the Muslims of India. The CAA or the National Population Registry would never take away their citizenship. Nitish has also to shield those well-meaning Muslims of Bihar (and they are the silent majority) in whose names the vocal politicians are trying to advance their agenda.

They need to be convinced that the Muslims were kept outside the scope of the Act because it was believed the Muslims wouldn’t come to India to seek refuge just because they were subjected to religious persecution in Muslim majority Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan. And, therefore, they wouldn’t be granted refugee status. The Shias and Ahmedias could be the persecuted communities in Pakistan but they would go to other Muslim-majority or Islamic countries. The Shias can go to Iran and Ahmedias can go to Bahrain, they would not come to India as refugees.

Moreover, Nitish should make no bones about admitting the fact that given the alarming rate of illegal immigration, India or Bihar couldn’t afford to open their borders to unqualified refugees. Considering depletion of limited resources, every nation state is obliged to work in the interest of its own people. Already dangerous predictions are that because of global warming, climate change or economic dislocation, India (or, South Asia) will have to brace for large scale population transfer, immigration or for internally displaced people.

Nitish should also explain to the skeptics that the CAA was not a violation of Article 14 of the Indian constitution. Article 14 provides for equality before the law or equal protection of the laws. 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."

On numerous occasions the Supreme Court has given its interpretation of article 14 asserting it means equality of the equals, not equality of unequals.

Dr Subramaniam Swamy explains this very well. He says: Consider a case. A Scheduled Caste is given reservation in a job or in an educational institution and a Brahmin is not. A Brahmin can’t thump his chest and say: “Oh, equality before the law, article 14, I should also get reservation!” That argument will not be admissible and that demand can’t be conceded. Why? A Brahmin can’t get reservation because he is not equally placed with a Scheduled Caste.

The Muslims of Pakistan can’t claim equality with the Muslims of India. Likewise, a Canadian of Indian origin, since he or she has taken the citizenship of Canada, can’t go to India and claim equality with the citizens of India.

There are, however, different paths to acquiring citizenship of India. The Indian Act doesn’t bar anyone from being considered as a refugee to India.


Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.

Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.

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