The worrying thing for all Indians is the bigger picture. The way things are going, the BJP’s dream of a “Congress-mukt Bharat” no longer appears fanciful. This is a problem for the entire country, and even for BJP supporters, because democracy requires checks and balances. With the only existing national alternative in disarray and key institutions appearing hollower by the day, what is at stake is the character of Indian democracy.
Apart from the constitutional objection, the harm bit mainly comes in because of the other thing that’s supposed to follow – the National Register of Citizens a.k.a. NRC. This has only been done in one state so far, Assam, and 1.9 million people have been left out of the final NRC list because they could not prove through documents that they or their direct ancestors were citizens of India before March 24th 1971, which was the cut-off date. Over 1.2 million of the 1.9 million are estimated to be Hindus. The BJP leaders in Assam had promised the Citizenship Amendment Act would be passed to ensure no Hindus were left stateless because of the NRC. The CAA provides a backdoor for the NRC excluded Hindus, but there’s a catch or two. They will have to claim that they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan in order to apply via CAA. They would presumably have to show some proof of identity as well, showing when and where they came from, since there is a cut-off date. The CAA is not applicable for Indians who cannot prove citizenship and it is not applicable for those who came after 2014. Therefore, the Indians left out of the NRC because of lack of documentation have no option but to fight cases in the Foreigners’ Tribunals and courts. If they lose the cases eventually, they will be sent to detention camps or, if any country accepts them, they will be deported. Poor people without the means to fight cases will be worst hit.
The whole country of Israel is strewn with locations associated with the Bible. There are places here sacred to the Jews, of course, but also to Christians, and to Muslims. All three great Abrahamic faiths were born in these lands. Their foundational myths and legends are here, and thus, too, their unending conflicts. No place brings home this fact more clearly than Jerusalem.
What is most likely to follow is a painful process of going through the legal grind for the excluded who are not saved by the Citizenship Amendment Bill – assuming the Bill will save anyone at all. That too remains a matter of doubt as there are legal and procedural issues.
At the end of it all, thousands of poor people will be further pauperised by the costs of legal fees. Some may die in detention camps or commit suicide. India’s close ties with Bangladesh will be severely tested. The Assamese jatiyobadis may earn an international reputation for xenophobia.
There is a tribal versus non tribal divide, but there are divides between and within tribes as well. There are many linguistic divides, several religious divides, class divides, and political divides. So, for instance, the Chakmas are a tribal group, as are the Tea Tribes, but their status in Northeast India is very different from other tribal groups. Similarly, the Meiteis of Manipur are a nontribal group, but their situation too is quite unique. The Bengalis are united by language and divided by religion. The Assamese and Bengali are, in many cases, united by religion and divided by language. The Nagas are divided by tribe but united by a sense of Naga identity. And so on.
Tokyo will be hosting the Olympics again in 2020, and the Paralympics too. The country suffers from an ageing population and a shortage of workers in many spheres. It is opening up to the idea of hiring workers from abroad. Only this month, November 2018, the government there proposed a loosening of visa regulations to enable foreign workers to move there.
There will be opportunities for Indians, and especially for Indians from India’s east and northeast who share certain historical and cultural connections, to engage with that country. The Olympics may be a good time to visit that country, and perhaps even to become a volunteer for the Games. The organizers are currently recruiting 80,000 volunteers from around the world.