It is baffling, says author Andaleeb Wajid, who has written over 20 books to date, on the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Bengaluru based writer, in fact, quit her job to pursue her passion. Many of Wajid’s stories have a Muslim setting, aimed to normalise the community’s day to day life. She said in an interview with SheThePeople.TV that this is something that needs to be done sadly, in a world where othering is common. This sense of othering though is more prominent today than it was ever before. “As a Muslim woman till now, I feel I was living in a bubble. This is a manifestation of Islamophobia which is a shock,” says Andaleeb on the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act.
According to her those who are supporting CAA are just looking at just one aspect of it. They are not looking at how it will affect people who have been living here for years and years. “It seems very absurd to me, like some sort of horrific nightmare playing out, which I still haven’t come to terms with.”
As student protests have erupted across the nation following alleged incidences of police brutality at universities like JMI, AMU and DU, the conversation seems to have shifted from the root cause of this upheaval and how people advocating CAA on social media and in real life has invoked a feeling of estrangement among the Muslim community.
As a Muslim woman till now, I feel I was living in a bubble. This is a manifestation of Islamophobia which is a shock. – Andaleeb Wajid
Nazia Erum, who wrote the critically acclaimed book Mothering A Muslim seconds Wajid by saying that those who are advocating CAA have not been able to understand the problem that it poses for the nation at large and how any amendment that opposes the constitution, that is not aligned with the basics and preambles of our constitution is something that definitely every citizen should oppose, for the protection of integrity of the country and every citizen of the country.
Says she, “This amendment through its exclusion of a particular religion or community, weaponises the NRC, actually laying the ground for making sure that when NRC is implemented, only and only Muslims have to be in line for proving their citizenship. It is a shame that such an amendment was conceptualised in the first place or proposed and then passed. It is a humongous shame on every citizen if they allow this to go through and do not stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.”
The outrage over CAA, which has now spilled to colleges and streets of the country is overwhelming, which has taken many by surprise. However, Supreme Court lawyer Farah Faiz feels that the concepts regarding CAA are not clear to a lot of people opposing it, while they are right in opposing it. “There is just this misconception in their head that CAA is against the Muslims and if we do not oppose it, the Muslim community will suffer a lot. A lot of misconception is also being spread due to vote bank politics, and that is why these people have taken to streets,” she explains.
Faiz does agree that CAA violates the Indian constitution on a fundamental level. “Article 14 of the constitution speaks of Right to Equality, which grants equality to every person. If the government had to bring CAA anyhow, then it should have been done on humanitarian ground. If we are granting citizenship to people from outside of India on grounds that they are being oppressed, then we can’t do that on basis of their religion. If we do that, then what is the difference between us and other countries?”
Faiz opines that either the government shouldn’t have named the countries that it has, or it should have made this amendment for everyone. “Naming particular countries and religions in CAA, that is wrong, and it does violate the fundamental rights granted to us in the constitution.”
Wajid wonders that if Muslims are deliberately being left out from CAA, and if everyone has read the preambles of the constitution, then how can we call ourselves secular if we leave out Muslims? “These are very basic and obvious things,” she says.
The resulting student protests although are a good sign according to Erum. Says she, “I am glad that the students and youth is showing us the way because the others have definitely failed the next generation. It is commendable that the students are finally standing up and they are leading the protest, and that every institution has come out in solidarity of JNU, JMI, AMU and DU where we have seen reports of brutal and unprovoked police action.”
Erum strongly advocates that all the photographs and videos doing rounds on social media need to be verified, but there should also be an independent and immediate inquiry into the actions of authorities as well. “How are tear gas and bullets (as alleged in news reports) being used against student protesters? We saw Hong Kong protests go across for months, and yet there was no such brutal crackdown there by the police as we have seen in the last one week in India. It is a commentary on the state of police. There can be no equivalence drawn in terms of what the students are doing and what the police is doing.”
But just why have students in India connected so strongly with this issue? Wajid feels that students are taking ownership of their country like they ought to because it is their country just as much as it belongs to any of us. “They are the ones who are becoming the face of whatever is happening right now. What’s the point of education if you cannot distinguish between right and wrong?” She further adds, “It gives hope to see young people who have not becomes jaded like us, who are still idealistic and have hopes for the future.”
Faiz though thinks that students are being targeted and used here, and that is nothing new. “Whenever such issues are raised, the students of universities and colleges are misused and that is what is happening even today.” She also believes that the protests that are happening in universities around the country are actually in support of students of Jamia Millia and against whatever happened with them, and not exactly in opposition to CAA.
I am glad that the students and youth is showing us the way because the others have definitely failed the next generation. – Nazia Erum
Faiz is of the opinion that there is no problem in bringing in such an Act if you think from the point of view of the safety of our country. “Our nation comes above everything else for us. But it is indeed hurting our constitution.” According to her, it would have been better if this step had been taken after considering everyone’s opinion. “Afterall the government is bringing in this act for the sake of people, for those who are suffering in other countries, the act is being brought in to give them shelter. So if you are doing something good, then what is the need of doing this in a Hitlershahi manner? The government should take everyone in confidence.”
She further emphasises on the point that if you do have to protest, at least your concepts should be clear and you should know how to put your point of view properly. “We shouldn’t become instruments of politicians in the process of agitation.” She also adds, “If everyone presents a united front and presents their point of view peacefully, then I don’t think any government would dare to ignore something which is being demanded by so many people.”
If there was one thing, that they could say to any person who was supporting CAA, what would it be? Erum says that it all depends on how you view India. “If you think India is an inclusive space, that it has space for equality and brotherhood across communities, then you should be able to see the humungous flaw that CAA is in countering that entire narrative. It only serves to not giving equality to every religion and every community in India and it is against the principals of our constitution. So I hope every citizen is able to see through the smokescreen that is being put forward by the proponents of the CAA and the arguments that they are putting forward.”
Wajid though questions why should she have to convince anyone? “Despite everything that has been happening in the country for the past few years I have still been going on with the assumption that people are inherently good. It is very baffling for me, very unnerving, to know that there are people supporting CAA. This is as much my country as it is anyone else’s. So I don’t know why the onus of convincing someone is on me. I don’t see anyone really listening to me, besides I don’t know why should I justify my stand. I am very much an Indian and proud to be one. I don’t know why I should shout it from the rooftop.”