In our Democracy it looks Laws passed by Parliament Need to be Ratified by Shaaheen Baghs & Jamias?
By Amba Charan Vashishth
It looks democracy in India is entering into a new phase where laws passed by Parliament in a democratic manner will need to be ratified by Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Islamia University hold-ups, violent protest demonstrations at various places before these can be put into the Statute Book for implementation.
Opposition is a vital pillar of democracy. Its absence robs the very sheen of democracy. Government and Opposition are not inimical to each other; they actually complement each other. Just as all religions and faiths lead us to realizing the Ultimate in their own way, in the same manner, both the ruling party and the opposition have — and should — the unity of thought and action to achieve the ultimate goal of public weal and security of the nation. The opposition voice needs to be heard and respected and not ignored or gagged unless, of course, motivated by narrow political and electoral interests.
Political parties in the country need also to understand that a council of ministers headed by a prime minister is the government of India and not of the ruling party or alliance they may belong to. Therefore, speaking for or against any member of the council of ministers should not transgress the limits of decency.
Our political parties also need to respect the people’s mandate. It has become a ritual for political parties to pre-empt their likely failure by alleging immediately after the polling and before the counting moment that electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been tampered with and questioning the security where these had been stored till the day of counting. For the Delhi assembly elections Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had done so in 2015 elections and this time in February 2020 elections. After their massive win — 67 in 2015 and 62 out of 70 last time) — they failed to congratulate the Election Commission and EVMs for a free and elections. They should also have regretted their wild and reckless allegations.
It has been found that political parties try to compensate their loss of mandate by being more aggressive and vociferous in putting hurdles in the path of the ruling party to promote its vision of development and welfare of the people.
Six months back the NDA government at the Centre led by Shri Narender Modi entered into its second tenure with a mandate stronger than the last one. It lost no time to aggressively launch upon to fulfill the promises it made to the people of the country.
First it removed the “Temporary and Transitional” Article 370 and 35-A of the Constitution which for the last 72 years had been rendered almost ‘permanent’. These Articles had discriminated against the people in the rest of the country and even within the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). This action has now demolished the unnatural wall created by these very Articles to separate the citizens of J&K from those in the rest of the country. Now J&K people are as much proud citizens of the country as are of any other State of the Union.
Further, the Modi government amended the Citizens Act 1955 to give citizenship to those Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who had been ill-treated, harassed and persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan and, to save their life, honour and freedom of worship, had sought refuge in their mother country from which they got separated on account of the unfortunate Partition of the country 72 years back. The sufferings of this population can be gauged from the fact that Hindus after Partition constituted 12.9 percent of Pakistan population have now been reduced to just 1.6 percent. In Bangladesh Hindu population according to 1951 census was 22.05 percent. It has been made to melt down to 8.5 percent. The percentage has gone down because of forced conversions and persecution. The same is true of Sikhs, Christians, Parsees. The situation in Afghanistan is more or less the same.
Another ugly part of the Partition is that it did not provide for any mechanism to administer justice to those who for the love of their land of birth preferred to stay back in Pakistan and Bangladesh against the ethnic cleansing indulged in by these Islamist governments. In 1951 Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart Liaqat Ali Khan did sign a Pact to safeguard the interests of minorities in the two countries. (The present Bangladesh was then known as East Pakistan.) While India implemented its part of the Pact sincerely and honestly, Pakistan treated it just a paper worth throwing into the dustbin.
For political and electoral ends in view the political parties and individuals opposed to the NDA are trying to make a great issue of a non-issue. PM Modi and HM Amit Shah have from the day the bill was introduced in both houses of Parliament been reiterating that CAA is not against Muslims in any way. The Act provides for grant of citizenship to refugees from these countries and not to snatch the citizenship to any minority, including Muslims already Indian citizens. But anti-CAA elements continue to misguide the illiterate or semi-literate gullible people by spreading a false canard. The most unfortunate part is the attitude of literate students of some universities who can very easily go through the provisions of this Act to ascertain reality. That they are stoking fires of false propaganda certainly points to some ulterior motive.
Excluding Muslims from the provisions of this Act is certainly not sinister but practical. Can any sane person think of persecution of Muslim people in Islamist countries on grounds of religion? It is as ridiculous as to say that Christians could be persecuted on account of their faith in USA, Great Britain and even in Vatican for their faith in Lord Christ and holy Bible. Or Muslims could feel unsafe in UAE, Iran, Pakistan, etc and they flee to India for solace and safety. If India allowed embracing Muslims from these countries, it could only result in a flood of terrorists seeking asylum here in the garb of their being tortured for being Muslims. Some NDA ministers, like Shri Nitin Gadkari, have already said that India cannot be turned into a dharmshala for refuge in this country.
No one has prevented countries, like Pakistan and Malaysia to welcome with open arms Muslim from other countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan into their lands. They criticize India but don’t frame a policy in their own countries for lack of which they criticize India.
Amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 (CAA) was adopted following a democratic process, as any other enactment in the past. After full discussion the opposition stressed on a division and the amendment was carried with a comfortable majority with 311 in favour and 80 against in Lok Sabha and 125 for and 105 against in Rajya Sabha.
What else could be the democratic process? How could then a section of the opposition allege that democracy in the country has been/is being throttled?
The opposition of some political parties to have a National Register of Citizens (NRC) also suffers from illogical arguments and practice. A country’s population is the sum total of all the families in a district and State. Every Indian citizen has a ration card which gives full detail of his family members. Every member, almost, has a PAN card and aadhaar card. Some have driving, gun licence and passport too. Some people are spreading the canard that for NRC they will be required to give the names of their father, mother, grandfather and place and date of birth also. One wonders why providing this information should annoy and embarrass anybody. This information is very basic to the identity of a person. Details of one’s father-mother’s name, date and place of birth, name of the school and college, educational qualifications, if employed or not, married or not, registration of one’s marriage, number of children, religion, nationality, voter ID card and much other information about self. Scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and OBCs have to get of their belonging to their castes etc. to avail of the concessions available to them. Then why should one feel hurt to disclose this information for NRC?
NRC will also do away with the practice of people having a number of voter IDs at a number of places, bogus ration cards and figuring of a person’s name in a number of ration cards at different places.
The Ram-mandir-Babri masjid issue too stands resolved.
NDA has succeeded in addressing these core issues with speed and sincerity. Opposition feels rattled in its failure to block many such measures in a democratic manner. Therefore, they have brought Shaahin Bagh hold-up and unending strikes and blockades in some colleges and university campuses are examples. News channels have shown that many of the protesters were hired individuals who had come on the promise of daily wages. Some even did not know for what purpose they had come. The Government has used utmost restraint. The Supreme Court of India has also disapproved of the hold-ups causing untold misery to the people whose passage has been blocked for the last about two months.
The unending sit-ins and hold-ups certainly point to an unfortunate situation that undermines democracy. It looks as if the laws passed in a democratic manner in the two houses of State legislature and in Parliament have to be subjected to ratification by the unruly mobs and violent demonstrations before these are put in the statute book and implemented. Which side will our democracy drift then? ***
The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator.
(Courtesy: SOUTH ASIA POLITICS MONTHLY)