Dialogue 2: With Prof. Shailaja Menon

December 21, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

[This one has moved far away from the CAA and NRC. It is about one particular kind of fallacy rampantly used these days. May not be of much interest generally. Also has become rather detailed at places. I am putting it here only because Shailaja raised these points publicly and they have a bearing on my ways of thinking.]

This is not a face to face dialogue. Shailaja wrote the whole text which I have parsed against her name as a single comment. I have parsed it for the purpose of responding properly, and to avoid ambiguity. Her comment was on my blog titled “Rampant ad hominem and dogmatic warriors”.

Shailaja: Rohitji, as you know, Ad Hominem argumentation would be considered valid in certain traditions, such as Marxism, contemporary sociology of knowledge, etc, where it is proposed that the truth and falsity of ideas cannot be evaluated independently of the material/ideological positioning of the person advancing the argument.

Rohit: (a) Apologies for my ignorance Shailaja ji, but would like to have some references where Marxism and Contemporary Sociology of Knowledge where ad hominem is admissible.  If the references also include some good examples, it will help me.

(b) Difficult to accept that “the truth and falsity of ideas cannot be evaluated independently of the material/ ideological positioning of the person advancing the argument”. A person can give a statement, and also can advance an argument. Arguments depend on premises, which are statements.

See the following examples of statements:

One: 2+2=4

Two: Moon is nearer to earth in comparison to Mars.

Three: Untouchability still persists in many rural parts of Rajasthan.

Four: Aurangzeb reintroduced jaziah which was abolished by Akbar.

Five: “Do not do to others what you do not want to be done to you” is a moral maxim. (Being a moral maxim is simply the characterisation of the maxim in the sense of indicating its domain; and does not mean its acceptance by anyone.)

Six: Subtility of metaphor is one of the important criteria in deciding quality of a poem.

Seven: All above statements are true or false irrespective of the material and ideological position of who makes them.

Using ad hominem to refute or challenge these statement would mean something like: (Say they are all made by X, I want to refute statement four above) X has always been extremely critical of Aurangzeb, therefore, Aurangzeb did not introduce jaziah. Will it cut any ice?

I don’t think the truth of any of the above statements will be affected by who is making them.

Now see the following arguments:

One: (a) If Shailaja donates 10% of her income for charity, and (b) Her income is 5,00,000 rupees per month, then (c) She donates 50,000 rupees per month.

Two: (a) If Rohit smokes 20 cigarettes a day, (b) if it is true that risk of lung cancer among 20-per day smokers is 10% higher than non-smokers; and (c) Shailaja is a non-smoker; then (d) all other things being equal, Rohit’s risk of lung cancer is 10% higher than Shailaja.

Three: (a) If higher female education results in reduced birth rate irrespective of all other socio-economic-political and environmental conditions, and (b) Rajasthan wants to reduce birth rate, then (c) it is reasonable for Rajasthan to provide better opportunities for female education.

Four: (a) If Chandragupta Maurya married a Greek woman, (b) If Bindusara was son of that Greek woman and Chandragupta Maurya, and (c) if Ashok was biological son of Bindusara, then (d) Ashok also had Greek blood in his veins.

Five: (a) If Shailaja accepts the moral principle that hurting others is morally bad under all circumstances, and (b) Shailaja has hurt Bhootnath, then (c) Shailaja has violated her own principle.

Six: (a) If there are no criteria for considering poetry good or bad, then (b) Rohit Dhankar is as good a poet as Ramdhari Singh Dinkar.

Seven: (a) If the validity of all the above listed arguments is independent of the material/ideological position of who advanced them, then (b) it is valid to conclude that in very large part of rational conversation validity of arguments can be decided independent of the material and ideological positions of people who advance them.

If one analyses carefully all the statements and arguments listed above it becomes clear that they are true/false or valid/invalid irrespective of people who make them. Therefore, I do not accept what you said in this regard.

Furthermore, even if material/ideological position of the person is taken into account in some specific situations that does not necessarily mean indulging in ad hominem.

Shailaja: You are right that we should not, in public reasoning, refer ONLY to personal characteristics, irrespective of the points that a person is making. Nor, should we ideally attack the human being.

Rohit: Thanks for recognising this much. But I would insist personal characteristics of the person making argument are irrelevant to the merits of the argument.

Shailaja: However, I would argue that it is perfectly logical and rational to take into account who the person is, where they are coming from, in evaluating their arguments. Courts of law permit certain kinds of ad hominem argumentation, because the validity and necessity of it in human interactions is acknowledged.

Rohit: I would like to know such instances. I seriously doubt it. I can understand looking into a person’s character and past for judging the truth of his/her statement where no other grounds for verification or rejection are available. For example, a habitual liar who has appeared in a court as a false witness is likely to be unreliable, and may get rejected. Such a person if says that the he saw the accused hitting this person, the judge may reject his testimony. But this is a practical decision on the part of the judge to keep legal procedure reliable. And is concerned with the acceptability of his statement; not effecting the truth itself. I never said that ad hominem is not used to discredit or enhance credit of people in public discourse. It is used day in and day out, and is also effective. That does not mean that it affects the truth or untruth of the statements or validity/invalidity of arguments.

In the famous story of the shepherd boy and wolf the discredited poor boy lost his sheep because of the opinion formed of the boy based on past experience of the villagers. The truth of the loss of sheep was not affected by the judgment of the villagers on the boy’s statement (announcing the approaching wolf).

Fallacy is a term applicable to logic used in an argument. Arguments can be valid or invalid. Sound or unsound. They are not true or false. Statements are true or false. Imagine a well-known thief makes the following argument in front of the judge who knows his habits well:

Argument: (a) Sir, the defence lawyer admits that I was in Kolkata at 2 pm on 21st Dec 2019. (b) he also admits that the bank theft happened in Delhi between 2 pm and 4 pm. On 21st Dec 2019. (c) there is no way a person can reach Delhi from Kolkata in less than two hours. Therefore, (d) Sir, he is accusing me falsely.

Shall this argument become invalid due to the recognised fact that the maker is a well-known thief? And that even the judge knows it? I see no way any one can claim that this is an invalid argument.

Shailaja: Potential employers do it, too, because human nature has some predictability; by reviewing a person’s past actions and stances, you can predict (with some margin for error) what they are LIKELY to do in the future.

Rohit: May be for the same reason and in the same sense to ascertain reliability. That is not use of ad hominem argument. That is judging character.

Shailaja: Let me give you examples of bad and reasonable ad hominem arguments, in my opinion.

  1. Bad: I reject Rohitji’s arguments because I feel he’s a stubborn man. Rohit: yes, it is bad and ad hominem.
  2. Reasonable: I question some of Rohitji’s arguments because I know that he comes from a tradition of analytical philosophy that ignores context and minutely parses narrow pieces of the whole.

In the latter case, Rohitji’s background and training are legitimate sources of information for me to consider in terms of evaluating his arguments.

Rohit: Perfectly correct. Only that you do not reject Rohit’s argument because he comes from analytical philosophy training. You simply become alert and examine his arguments more closely because of this view. The validity of his arguments remains unaffected by your judgment of Rohit. It will be revealed to you only on the basis of other criteria used to ascertain validity of his arguments.

*****

21st December 2019

 


विवेकहीन आक्रामक कट्टर योद्धाओं का जमाना

December 20, 2019

रोहित धनकर

[इस ब्लॉग में मैं अपने कल के अङ्ग्रेज़ी के ब्लॉग “Rampant ad hominem and dogmatic warriors” में कही बात को ही हिन्दी में कह रहा हूँ। दोनो आलेख मैंने ही लिखे हैं। अतः, हू-ब-हू अनुवाद की जरूरत नहीं समझता।]

इस वक़्त भारत एक बहुत मुश्किल दौर से गुजर रहा है, शायद अपने संवैधानिक इतिहास के सबसे मुश्किल दौर से। राजनैतिक विचार धाराओं के बहुत आक्रामक संघर्ष के कारण समाज बहुत उद्वेलित है और नागरिक लगातार दो धड़ों में बंटते जा रहे हैं। रोज लोकतन्त्र और धर्मनिरपेक्षता पर खतरे का डर फैल रहा है।

धर्मनिरपेक्षता लोकतन्त्र के लिए जरूरी है। न तो कोई भी देश बिना धर्मनिरपेक्षता के लोकतन्त्र हो सकता है, नाही कोई लोकतन्त्र धर्म-राज्य या फिरकापरस्त हो सकता है। क्यों कि लोकतन्त्र में व्यक्ति का महत्व स्वीकारना मूल मंत्र होता है। व्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता इस का आधार होती है। और सब नागरिकों का हित समान समान होता है। अतः, राज्य अपनी नीतियों में धर्म के आधार पर भेद नहीं कर सकता। भेद करने पर इन सिद्धांतों का विरोध होगा। अतः वह लोकतन्त्र नहीं रहेगा।

लोकतन्त्र की गुणवत्ता उसके नागरिकों की गुणवत्ता पर निर्भर करती है। लोकतन्त्र के नागरिकों की पहली जरूरत स्पष्ट और विवेकशील चिंतन और नए विचारों को समझने की काबिलियत होती है। यह एक सुशिक्षित व्यक्ति की पहचान भी है। असपष्ट और विवेकहीन विचार करने वाले नागरिकों का लोकतन्त्र ना तो सुरक्षित रह सकता है नाही विकास कर सकता है। क्यों की इन्हें कोई भी दुर्बुद्धी नेता या प्रसिद्ध व्यक्ति आज के शक्तिशाली संचार माध्यमों के उपयोग से बहका सकता है। लोकतन्त्र में नागरिक की प्रभाविता उसकी साफ समझ और सत्या-सत्य के निर्णय की बौद्धिक ईमानदारी पर निर्भर करती है। उस में तथ्य और कुप्रचार में फर्क करपाने की समझ होनी चाहिए। उस में मतांधता और पूर्वाग्रह को नकारने की सामर्थ्य होनी चाहिए; और भेड़-चाल के विरुद्ध खड़े होने की सामर्थ्य होनी चाहिए।

साफ विचार की काबिलियत के साथ ही लोकतन्त्र विचार और अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता की भी मांग करता है। बिना अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता के संवाद संभव नहीं है और बिना संवाद के विवेक आधारित सहमती संभव नहीं है। मत-भेदों और हितों की टकराहट को दूर करने के लिए लोकतन्त्र में विवेक आधारित सहमति के अलावा कोई तरीका नहीं होता। अतः अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता के बिना लोकतन्त्र नहीं चल सकता।

लोकतन्त्र का सचेत नागरिक अपनी बात साफ और स्त्यरूप में निडर हो कर तो कहता ही है; वह दूसरे की बात भी पूरी शांति और ध्यान से सुन कर वेवेक-सम्मत जवाब देता है। जो अपने से भिन्न विचारों को शांति से सुनने और समझने की काबिलियत नहीं रखता वह कभी भी विवेकशील और स्पष्ट चिंतन नहीं कर सकता। ऐसे नागरिक का शोर-शराबा ना तो लोकतन्त्र की रक्षा करता है ना ही किसी लोकतान्त्रिक मूल्य की।

आम तौर पर जो लोग अपने विचारों के विरुद्ध विचार और तर्क सुनकर गुस्सा होते हैं उन्होने कुछ विचार और विश्वास बिना समझे और बिना उनके लिए उचित तर्कों/आधारों के स्वीकार कर लिए होते हैं। बहुत बार ऐसे लोग किसी गुरु, विचारक, प्रसिद्ध बुद्धिजीवी या यहाँ तक की खोखले सेलेब्रिटी तक का अनुकरण कर रहे होते हैं। अपने विचार के तर्कसहित विरोधिविचार से सामना होने पर ऐसे लोग असुरक्षित महसूस करते हैं, क्यों की वे नातो स्वयं के विचार को ठीक से समझते हैं, ना ही उस के लिए प्रमाण या तर्क दे सकते हैं। अतः, अपने बचाव के लिए ये लोग विचार से ध्यान हटा कर विचार रखने वाले हमला कर देते हैं। यह बहुत व्यापक स्तर पर काम में लिया जाने वाला तर्क-दोष है। और आज कल तो इसका बहुत ही ज्यादा चलन हो गया है। इस तर्कदोष का लेटिन भाषा में नाम एड होमिनेम है।

एड होमिनेम के कुछ उदाहरण नीचे दिये हैं:

“कुछ लोग बात कर रह थे। राम और उसके दोस्तों की दृढ़ मान्यता थी कि धरती घनाकार है। कृष्ण के बहुत हैरानी हुई।

उसने कहा “धरती यदि घनाकार है तो समुद्र से आते हुए जहाज को किनारे से देखने पर पहले मस्तूल और फिर बाद में पूरा जहाज क्यों दिखता है? चंद्र ग्रहण के समय चाँद पर धरती की छाया गोल क्यों दिखती है? मेरे विचार से धरती गोलाकार होनी चाहिए।

राम: तुम्हें भाषा नहीं आती। तुमने “बाद में” को “बद में” बोला है।

कृष्ण: ठीक है। तुम मेरी बात तो समझ गए हो। तो यह बताओ मेरे तर्क में क्या दोष है?

राम: तुम घनाभ चीजों को पसंद नहीं करते, इस लिए ऐसा कह रहे हो।

कृष्ण: बढ़िया। अब ये बताओ मेरी बात में गलती क्या है?

राम2: हमें तुम्हारा इतिहास भी देखना पड़ेगा, तुमने चंद को भी गोल कहा था।

कृष्ण: ठीक। अब मेरे धरती संबंधी तर्क में गलती बताओ।

राम3: तुम्हारी बुद्धि बीमार हो गई है।

कृष्ण: धन्यवाद। पर मेरे तर्क में दोष बताओ।

राम4: हे ईश्वर, यह कह रहा है कि धरती गोल है! घ्रणित, अति घ्रणित!!

आज कल नागतिकता संशोधन विधेयक और राष्ट्रीय नागरिकता रजिस्टर पर चल रही बहस में बहुत ज्यादा लोग उपरोक्त तरीके से बात कर रहे हैं। ऐसा नहीं है की अच्छी और उचित प्रकार की बहस नहीं चल रही। वह भी खूब चल रही है और उस से लोकतान्त्रिक प्रक्रिया मजबूत भी हो रही है। क्यों की तर्कों में स्पष्टता आ रही है और विचारों की विभिन्न परतों का विश्लेषण हो रहा है।

पर दूसरी तरफ ऊपर वर्णित किश्म के लोग भी लोकतन्त्र और धर्मनिरपेक्षता के योद्धा बने घूम रहे हैं। इन में से अधिकतर योद्धा ठीक से पढ़कर कर समझने की काबिलियत नहीं रखते, तर्क की समझ शून्य है, अपने अलावा सब विचारों के लिए एकदम बंद दिमाग हैं। बस अपने गुरुओं से सुनी बातें दोहरा रहे हैं और समझते हैं की बहुत बड़ा काम कर रहे हैं। पहले सिर्फ संघ के पास ऐसे बंद-दिमाग योद्धा थे; अब दोनों तरफ इनकी फौजें हैं।

इन लोगों ने कुछ समाज में सराहना पाने वाले विचार आत्मसात कर लिए हैं, कुछ अच्छे समझे जाने वाले विश्वास बना लिए हैं। पर उनके मर्म को समझे बिना और उनके पीछे विवेक के आधार को समझे बिना उन्हें आत्मसात किया है। अब क्यों कि ये विचार समाज में इतना मान पते हैं और जाने-माने बुद्धिजीवी इसी तरह की बातें अपने कारणों से बहुत ऊग्रता से रखते हैं। अतः इन पदाति सैनिकों को बल मिलता है। चूंकि ये तर्क कर नहीं सकते, तो क्रोध अभिव्यक्त करके और विपरीत विचार के लिए आग्रह करने वालों पर व्यक्तिगत आक्रमण करके अपने आप को उच्च नैतिक धरातल पर समझने लगते हैं। जब कि इनके आदर्श-लोग, जो इन विचारों का महत्व और इनके तर्क-कुतर्क समझते हैं, वे व्यक्तियों पर आक्रमण किए बिना अपनी बात रखते हैं।

ये पदाति-सैनिक यह नहीं समझते कि उदार लोकतन्त्र में अपने विरोधी की विचार अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतन्त्रता की रक्षा करना एक बहुत महत्वपूर्ण मूल्य है। एक विचार-शील नागरिक विरोधी को अपनी बात रखने देता है, बल्कि कोई और उस के इस अधिकार को बाधित करते हैं तो उसके अधिककर की रक्षा भी करता है; और तब सभ्य तरीके से सटीक आलोचना प्रस्तुत करता है। जब हम लोगों को उनके विचारों के लिए शर्मिंदा करने की कोशिश करके चुप कराना चाहते हैं या उन पर व्यक्तिगत आक्रमण करते हैं तब हम स्वयं हथियार डालचुके होते हैं।

नैतिक निर्णय किसी रटे-रटाये सिद्धान्त को मतान्ध लागू करना नहीं होता। कोई भी नैतिक समस्या तब तक नहीं उपजती जब तक एक ही परिस्थिति में दो महत्वपूर्ण नैतिक सिद्धांतों की टकराहट न हो। अतः, नैतिक निर्णय कम से कम दो सिद्धांतों में से किसी एक का विवेक-सम्मत चुनाव होता है। यह लकीर का फकीर होने से बहुत अलग चीज है। नैतिक निर्णय बहुत बार लकीर छोड़ कर नए पथ के निर्माण की मांग कर कराते हैं।

लोकतन्त्र, धर्मनिरपेक्षता, स्वतन्त्रता और समानता में समझ कर विश्वास रखने वाला कोई भी व्यक्ति किसी के विचार गलत हों तो भी व्यक्तिगत आक्रमण नहीं कर सकता। निसंदेह, गलत विचार की आलोचना की भी जरूरत होती है और उसे नकारने की भी। पर यह काम सभ्य तरीके से करना पड़ता है। जो विचार की आलोचना करके उसे नकारने का काम बिना व्यक्त पर आक्रमण किए नहीं कर सकता, वह लोक-संवाद के पहले सिद्धान्त से भी अपरिचित है।

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20 दिसम्बर 2019

 

 

 

 

 


Rampant ad hominem and dogmatic warriors

December 20, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

Currently India is going thought a particularly difficult phase in its constitutional history. In the particularly vicious struggle between political ideologies, the society is in a turmoil and citizenry is getting polarised day by day. One hears every day that the very democracy is at stake. Or that secularism is in danger.

Secularism is an essential principle in a democracy. No democracy can ever be non-secular; or no non-secular state can ever be a democracy. Simply because democracy is premised on the worth of individual, freedom of individuals and wellbeing of each citizen is equally important in it. Discrimination by the state on the basis of religion of its citizens contradicts the above-mentioned principle; namely, wellbeing of each citizen is equally important.

The quality of democracy depends heavily on the quality of its citizens. “The first requisite in this connection is … the capacity for clear thinking and a receptivity to new ideas. …. which is the distinguishing mark of an educated mind. A democracy of people who can think only confusedly can neither make progress, nor even maintain itself, because it will always be open to the risk of being misled and exploited by demagogues who have within their reach today unprecedentedly powerful media of mass communication and propaganda. To be effective, a democratic citizen should have the understanding and the intellectual integrity to sift truth from falsehood, facts from propaganda and to reject the dangerous appeal of fanaticism and prejudice.”

Together with clear and independent thinking; democracy necessarily requires freedom of expression. Without freedom of expression a fair dialogue is not possible. Because rational persuasion is the only legitimate way to achieve agreement in a democracy when faced with divergent view points and conflicting interests. Without freedom of speech free and genuine dialogue is impossible, and thus rational persuasion does not get a chance.

A concerned citizen in democracy does not only speak his/her mind truly, clearly and fearlessly; but also listens to opposite views calmly, carefully and responds rationally. One who does not have a capability to listen to and understand the views of his/her opponent objectively can never be a critical and clear thinker, and his/her voluble spouting of views does not help democracy, nor saves any of the democratic values.

Usually, the people who can not listen to an argument against their views and become angry when faced with opposition have imbibed ideas without properly understanding and/or without having proper arguments to support them. They usually are aping some guru, ideologue, intellectual icon, or even vacuous celebrity. The lack of properly understood justification of their dearly and dogmatically held position makes them feel internally vulnerable when faced with well argued opposition. Since they are incapable of countering the argument, they become angry and attack the person who had committed the sin of presenting opposite idea, with arguments beyond their intellectual capability. This attack on the person, rather than countering the argument is a very wide spread logical fallacy, and is called ad hominem.

Some blatant examples of ad hominem can be as follows:

“Some people were talking. Ram and his friends believed very strongly that the earth is cuboid shaped. Krishna was surprised and said: “Well, if earth is cuboid then how come we see the mast of approaching ships from sea shore first, and the rest of the ship appears later? How come the shadow of the earth on the moon in lunar eclipse is round? It seems the earth is round in shape.”

Ram: You don’t know language. You pronounced “letter” for “later”.

Krishna: Ok. But you understood what I am saying. So, what is wrong with my argument?

Ram: And you don’t like cuboids, that’s why you are saying this.

Krishna: Fine, but what is wrong with my argument, as such?

Ram2: we have to look into your history, you also said moon is round.

Krishna: Ok, but what is wrong with my argument about the earth?

Ram3: You have a sick mind.

Krishna: Thanks. But what is wrong with what I am saying?

Ram4: Oh my God, he says earth is round. What abomination.

In the present-day CAA and NRC debate too many people are talking like this. That does not mean that there is no serious and genuine discussion going on. Yes, there is good and genuine debate as well. And that is helping the democratic processes. Layers of the issues and argumentation are being continuously unravelled.

On the other hand, people like illustrated above are also masquerading as defenders of democracy and secularism. Most such people cannot read properly, cannot understand an argument, are completely closed minded on important issues. Spout out what have listened from their masters, and think that they are doing great job. Initially, such mindless shouters were only with the Sangh Parivar. Now, both sides have such armies.

They may have imbibed some ideas, formed some beliefs which are widely appreciated in the society. But have imbibed them without rational analysis and understanding their true meaning and proper justification. Now, the views happen to be so wide spread in the society and the icons are so vehement on these ideas for their own agendas, these foot-soldiers who do not know how to argue feel virtuous and self-important in getting angry and attacking people who happen to question such them.

This brigade does not understand that in a liberal democracy defending your opponent’s freedom of expression is an important value. You allow, and even defend you opponents right to speak, and then critique it in civilised language. When we start attacking and attempting to shame people for their ideas we already have lost the ground.

Moral decisions are not about applying a principle dogmatically. There is no real moral dilemma that does not involve at the least two conflicting values in the same situation. Therefore, moral decision is about carefully arriving at a judgment regarding which value should get precedence. This is different from always following a rut. A moral judgment may demand abandoning the well-trodden path and creating a new trail.

Those who genuinely believe in democracy, secularism, freedom of speech and equality can not afford to attack people for their ideas however wrong they may be. Wrong ideas necessarily require analysis, resistance and should be discarded. But all through a civilised discussion. Those who can not criticise and discard an idea without attacking the person who expressed it, do not know even the first principle of public dialogue.

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19th December 2019

 

 

 

 

 


CAB[1] and NRC

December 18, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

I have argued elsewhere[2] that CAB 2019 is not against secularism, does not make India a Hindu Rashtra, and not against any Indian citizen, including Muslims. But many people point out that together with National Register of Citizens (NRC) this can be used against Muslim citizens of India. What stand should one take in such a situation?

First, CAB does not include necessity of NRC, it stands alone. I read a statement somewhere “CAB is toothless without NRC”. This viewpoint comes from a mindset that assumes that CAB is designed to ‘punish’ or ‘harm’ someone, and by itself it cannot punish if ‘that someone is an Indian citizen’. According to such thinking it gets teeth only in combination with NRC.

I would like to point out that CAB may not have teeth (even if above assumption is accepted, for the sake or argument) without NRC, but it still can benefit lakhs of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians by removing illegal migrant tag on them and allowing them to apply for citizenship. And as far as this much goes, it harms no existing Indian citizen. Thus, without NRC it is not fruitless. It may be ‘toothless’ because it is not designed to harm anyone, but to help some people.

The genuine and really serious problems arise when it is combined with NRC, we assume that the process of registration in NRC will be very difficult and that the government is going to behave in a mala fide manner with Muslims. We should remember that this combining is not inherent to CAB, it will become possible through the further actions of the government, if it does. NRC carried out in the whole country can only identify illegal migrants, but cannot confer legitimacy to apply for citizenship without CAB, nor can the exercise provide for fast-track citizenship. NRC done without CAB can declare the persecuted minorities illegal migrants, but can give no respite to Muslims. The opponents of CAB, in such a case may have the satisfaction of not allowing any benefits to the six communities mentioned in CAB, but can provide to benefit to Muslims who are illegal migrants. This is one-way dependence between CAB and NRC, not mutual.

As per the newspaper reports the NRC has been a mess in Assam. It put many Indian citizens through hardships and no one believes that its results are accurate. The Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah declared in the parliament that the exercise of NRC will cover the whole of the country. If the exercise is done in a manner similar to Assam then this might be genuinely alarming. This is a huge problem without explaining to the public (1) the procedure, (2) providing a guarantee of fairness, (3) assuring that it can be done without too much trouble to people. The government has not done all this, and its actions and pronouncements do not inspire confidence, at present.

As an example of recent pronouncements one can consider Prime Minister Modi’s statement in Dumka, Jharkhand election rally where he said that those who are involved in arson during anti-CAB protests can be recognised by their cloths. People are objecting to this remark, rightly so, but the full story Modi weaves in that speech is much more objectionable. He builds a very diabolical narrative from 33rd to 43rd minutes of this[3] video. First, he singles out congress for working only for the family. Then points out that while criticising BJP and Modi, they start criticising Bharat, and cross the “seema rekha”. Then he points out arsonists as Muslims through their cloths. With a stern face and warning tone reminds Congress that they are supporting these people, and the nation is watching. Claims that the BJP has saved the nation through CAB (desh ko bhi bachaliya hai), a hint that making more Muslims (illegal migrant Muslims) citizens is a serious danger to the country. And then reminds the audience what Pakistanis did in the England in their protest in front of Indian Embassy. Says congress is doing the same here. In this narrative, he is declaring protesters as aligning with Pakistan and antinational; without saying so much in words. Setting up a thought chain in the minds of the listeners and leaving it to take its own course to become antimuslim. This from a PM is very bad, and erodes confidence of people, makes “sabka vishwas” unbelievable. In a democracy people have a right to protest, though no right to violence can be granted. Still protest sometime get into such situations, associating this with a particular religious community with designs to harm India on the basis of cloths cannot be an innocent act, particularly when people from all communities are protesting. This is but one example, BJP functionaries provide many such examples, with repeated calls to send Muslims to Pakistan. All this raises apprehension, regarding NRC.

Still, I don’t think summarily rejecting NRC is a good Idea. If the citizenship register of a country is in mess, no one knows how many foreigners are living there, no one can identify them, then there could be many problems including issues of security. Resources in the hands of foreigners which could be used for harming the country and so on. I don’t see such a situation good for the citizens of the country irrespective of their religion.

If NRC is found to be necessary for the whole country it can be done only if a fair and efficient procedure can be assured. If the public cannot be taken in confidence regarding accurate, fair and reasonably achievable procedures, then NRC has to be abandoned. I have not seen the authentic procedure documents (did not get them), eligibility criteria and list of acceptable documents. There is an article on Wikipedia on this issue. The criteria and documents as per that article do not seem to be too difficult. For example, if the government says that if you have a passport or if your name is in the voters’ list before such and such date then that is good enough as a proof, I don’t think anyone should find it too difficult. But one cannot make Wikipedia article basis for an argument. On the other hand, if the procedure demands that I should produce the name of my grandfather in a voters’ list, and from there on prove ancestry right down to me, with correctly spelled names; then it might be a lot of trouble. And will be a huge problem for poorer sections of the society.

The fact is, we do not know presently what the nationwide procedure and eligibility is going to be. If someone has authentic information on this, I would like to know that. Therefore, before we allow our minds to swing in any direction, we should also know whether NRC can be started throughout the nation just by an order of the government. I do not think that at this moment, but am not sure. If that is not possible and a law is required; then one should wait for that law and decide to support or oppose it when it is available, rather than imagining things and start opposing CAB on the basis of a law which is not even there yet.

The argument I am making is: if the CAB by itself does not do any harm to any Indian citizen and if it passes the test of ‘reasonable difference’ in the supreme court; then we should consider it a case of positive discrimination to minorities in our neighbouring countries, and not against the principle of secularism. Because we do use the principle of positive discrimination on the basis of religion in our own country.

In such a case we may oppose the NRC but not the CAB. Even if the NRC procedure finally turnout to be such that it can be used to discriminate against Muslims citizens of India, we should oppose NRC tooth and nail, and reject it. I see no justification for opposing CAB in the name of NRC. If we oppose CAB in the name of NRC without first knowing about eligibility criteria in NRC, then we are not trying to defend the rights of Indian citizens but are arguing against the lakhs of illegal migrants from three neighbouring countries belonging the minorities there. And we are being unfair.

We know that sooner or later we have to find a solution to the problem of persecuted minorities from ABF already in India. Citizenship seems to be the most suitable solution. We also know that in spite of all the rhetoric the illegal migrant Bangladeshi Muslims cannot be sent back to Bangladesh. Even if the laws demand deportation, it is not practically possible.  Leaving them stateless and without citizenship for ever is neither possible, nor humane. Keeping them in detention camps for ever is also an impossibility. Therefore, India has to develop a long-term policy about gradual citizenship to these people. And that policy should be known to the public. Neither the strategy of denial of their existence or admitting reduced numbers followed by erstwhile governments is good for India, nor the hard attitude of throwing them out is possible. If the government had thought through all these issues before embarking on CAB they could have gained public confidence. Adequate planning to CAB, NRC and a plan for solving the problem of illegal migrants together would have been much more acceptable to the people.

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18th December 2019

 

 

 

[1] Though CAB 2019 is passed by both the houses of parliament, I am not sure it has become an Act. If I am correct, it will become an Act when approved by the president and notified in the Gazette of India. But I am not sure on this, so will check.

[2] In my blog “Is Cab against secularism?”

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlo8QJBTa2E

 


A dialogue with Prof. Shailaja Menon

December 16, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

[This post is a dialogue with a bleeding-heart liberal (by her own admission) friend. We are in habit of having such dialogues time and again. This one was going on FB and is related to my yesterday’s post “Is CAB against secularism?”. That is why posting it here.]

Rohit: (In response to a post by Prof. Bhupenrda Yadav) I am sorry for being politically incorrect but actually do not understand what is wrong in trying to identify illegal migrants from Bangladesh? Have not come across any cogent argument yet. I do understand the limitless harm caused by dubbing Indian citizens as Bangladeshi, but do not understand why CORRECT identification would be wrong?

Shailaja: What is the process that would be followed for CORRECT identification? Ask people to produce documents they may not have access to, run from center to center for days on end, give up earning a living wage on those days? How will you solve problem of lack of correct documentation?

Rohit: By your question should I understand that the OBJECTION is because of lack or impossibility of reliable and fair procedure, and not to the idea of identification itself? If, yes, then it is worthwhile to device or develop reliable and fair procedures.

If the objection is in principle to the idea itself, that need to be shorted out.

So, which one is your objection?

Shailaja: I object to this at multiple levels, in principle, and due to process. Unlike you, I am not comfortable saying humanitarian sentiments you appeal to should only kick in for religious persecution of a certain segment of the population. [The original response from Shailaja was one continuous statement. I am breaking it up into separate points that statement makes, and responding to them one by one.]

Rohit: I am not saying that humanitarian ‘sentiments’ (to me ‘principles’) should kick in only for religious persecution of a segment of population. I am saying for some practical reasons due to religious persecution being one of the major causes of the citizenship crisis of lakhs of people living in India, THIS PARTICULAR ACT is trying to take care of this issue. AND THAT taking such a route to solution is not necessarily morally and legally objectionable. Humanitarian concerns should address other problems as well, and with sensitivity. BUT THE SOLUTION MAY NOT BE THE SAME. ACTUALLY, THE SOLUTION SHOULD NOT BE THE SAME.

Shailaja: I am a bleeding-heart liberal.

Rohit: I too consider myself a liberal in spite of what others think these days. 😊 However, I am not bleeding heart. I try to be as hardnosed rationalist as far as possible, though often fail (unfortunately ☹).

Shailaja: My heart bleeds when I see people migrating for economic reasons, as well.

Rohit: I too have concern for them. But distinguish between someone trying to flee to save his daughter or faith or may be life; and someone moving on the basis of one’s own judgment for better livelihood. And equating the two is injustice to my mind, irrespective of their religions.

Shailaja: My heart bleeds when the Rohingyas are massacred, yes, it’s a complex history, but my heart doesn’t understand these subtle differences when it sees a large section of humanity in distress.

Rohit: I do not have a bleeding heart, and can not demand others to go by MY heart, they may have THEIR OWN hearts. So, I prefer having good reasons that all may understand. However, I have concern for miseries of large populations, and Rohingyas as well. But, do not want to be responsible for it. To me India’s role in this is limited to may be providing temporary shelter and help the concerned countries solve it with as much humanity as possible. I see absolutely no reason for extending speeded up citizenship to Rohingyas. I believe that when India is not legally or morally bound to extend a favour, it has its freedom to restrict it to whom it sees fit.

Shailaja: My heart does not understand the idea of a non porous national border – acorss the world humans have and are migrating across national borders seeking to flee various kinds of atrocities; my heart is not able to sort them out into neat logical categories and behave in a humanitarian way towards one group, and in an indifferent way towards another.

Rohit: My mind understands and is forced to accept national borders; not completely non-porous, but reasonably firm and clear. My mind does not allow me to assume that justice (in all respects) to human life is possible without reasonably defined political formation at the current state of human intellectual and moral development. Such formations have political, legal, and administrative systems. They have economies, cultures, traditions, and ways of functioning. They make human cooperation and sharing the fruits of that cooperation in a just manner possible. I agree that they must be open minded and magnanimous in sharing whatever goods they have managed to create; but that can be done only in a reasonable manner; can not be considered free for all. Therefore, migration across the borders has to be regulated through legal systems. Otherwise, the necessary political and economic system will be destroyed. That reasonableness demands categorising the problems and devising appropriate solutions for each, rather than lumping everything together.

Shailaja: Most of all, Rohitji, my heart does not believe in punishing grandchildren of poor, illiterate muslims for what the elite counterparts of their grandparents chose – your grandparents chose two nations, we remember that, no fast track for you! The sins of the forefathers!

Rohit: My mind Shailaja ji, does not allow me to forget or disregard the causes and reasons advanced for partition; the methods used and resultant loss of human lives and property. The jolt to a developing culture and set-back to a polity. Imagining that those who disagree want to punish grandchildren for the wrong decisions of their grandparents is somewhat insulting to their intellect or moral compass. There could be reasons not motivated by a desire to punish, but based on better grounds.

But, one, I do not know why I should not consider the countries created in this manner at par with hundreds of other countries in the world as far as citizenship of those for whom these countries were created goes. And two, how can I ignore the trauma faced buy those who did not want such division. But accepted with heavy heart once it became inevitable. The division was of population, resources, kind of preferred laws and political formation. Thinking only of the grandchildren of those who wanted partition seems to be one sided to me. What about the legitimate issues, I am not talking of feelings, such open policy may create for the many more grandchildren of those who did not want partition? To be fair means thinking for all.

One needs to look into history of various failed pacts as well. Because of all this: why should one not consider them at par with foreigners coming to India from anywhere in the world? Why should one feel responsible in the same way as the victims of failed pacts and continuing atrocities simply because of their faith? I often wonder why hearts of some of my compatriots bleed only for one section of people who have come to India; and there is no mention at all of atrocities and hardships of those who do not belong to that section? Why their being minorities in other countries is ignored? Fairness and equality demand differentiation on rationally valid criteria. My mind does not allow me to ignore that.

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16th December 2019


Is CAB against secularism?

December 15, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

It is a general response to comments my last few blogs and particularly a Facebook post on CAB 2019 that has attracted many comments. It is an attempt to respond to those particular comments which raise some point of substance. May or may not respond to attacks and derogatory comments which are directed to person, but do not have any substantial point to make. I believe people who have high self-image of conscientious citizens should also have the capability to grant freedom of expression to ideas even if they are against their thinking. I see personal attacks as devices to stop people from expressing their ideas on the pain of ridicule and public insult. Even the worst idea has the right to be expressed and examined.

Formation of beliefs, arriving at conclusion and being self-guided

Our beliefs are formed on the basis of our experiences in interaction with natural and social environment. Many of them we borrowed from others. Many others are formed without much intervention of critical reason. They have the possibility of being justified (right?) as well as unjustified (wrong?). When we want to make decisions, draw conclusions on issues of general social importance, it is our duty as democratic citizens to examine the beliefs, facts, principle and ways of reasoning we are using. Democracy is premised on the assumption that citizens can form informed judgement in the manner indicated above. They may agree or disagree with each other; but every one has the right to arrive at his/her conclusion and to express it. They are also expected to agree or disagree according to their reasoned conclusions; not by herd-instinct nor by following a leader, influencing figure or Guru. Using one’s own mind and facing the consequences of mistakes thus made is better than submitting one’s mind to a master and enjoying security of supposed to be correct judgment.

Now, after these preliminaries, I will discuss the CAB-2019 and why do I think what I think about it.

How can a foreigner not living on Indian soil today become an Indian citizen if s/he wants to?

The principle act that governs citizenship in India is the Citizenship Act 1955 (CA-1955), with its many amendments and other related laws, all mentioned in the act. There are many ways. One way a foreigner who is not living in India today and wants to become a citizen is to come to India on valid papers, live here for 12 years, then apply for naturalization after one-year continuous living, then s/he may be granted citizenship of India. This does not differentiate or discriminate on the basis of religion or nationality or anything else. This is the method which is relevant to CAB-2019.

Another method open to people of Indian origin is to stay in India for seven years and then apply for citizenship. This is also relevant to the CAB-2019. There are many other ways, which are not relevant here.

Will these two or any other way be changed when CAB-2019 becomes operational? Not at all. The CAB-2019 will have absolutely no effect on the general procedure of acquiring Indian citizenship.

Then, has granting of citizenship to general applicants become based on religion in todays India? No, absolutely no. Then why critics of CAB shouting from the roof tops that citizenship has become based on religion is India and Muslims are excluded from granting citizenship now?

Does it malign India internationally? Does it tarnish India’s image? Yes, it does. Are these critics naive enough not to understand it? NO, definitely not, they may easily be the most informed people in India. Then what is their motive behind this malicious propaganda against India?

Will CAB change any of the rights an Indian citizen has today?

No. Absolutely none. There is nothing in CAB-2019 which affects any right of an existing citizen of India, irrespective of caste, creed, region, language, color, or whatever.

Are critics claiming that CAB is against Indian Muslims? Yes, they are. Are they unaware that CAB does not affect the rights of Indian Muslims at all? No, absolutely not.  Then why are they indulging in the false propaganda that CAB-2019 is against Muslim citizens of India? Does it divide Indian population and creates animosity between supporters and opposers of CAB? Yes, it does. Does it malign India internationally? Yes, it does. What are their motives then? Are they helping Indian population make informed decisions or are they misguiding it? You decide.

Who are the people CAB is concerned with?

The CAB-2019 is a narrowly drafted bull that is concerned with people who have entered into India on or before 31st December 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan (ABP). It is not concerned with people ho have entered India from any other country and in any other times. Therefore, advantages or disadvantages of people who have come from countries other than ABP are completely unaffected. Their advantages and disadvantages remain the same as they are under CA-1955.

Thus, the only people who are affected by CAB are foreigners who came to India on or before 31st December 2014 from AFP. Most of these people belong to the religious communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. There might be some Jains and Buddhists as well. Personally, I think Parsis and Christians are very few. There are estimates from slightly less than one crore to 1.5 crores Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. There are also, according to some estimates, 1.5 crore to more than 2 crore Muslims, mainly from Bangladesh. These are the people we are talking about in connection of CAB.

What are the provisions of CAB?

As far as I understand CAB does two things: one, it changes definition of illegal migrants for the people it covers; and two, it speeds up the process of granting citizenship by reducing the number of years required to apply for citizenship by naturalization.

Illegal migrant: CA-1955 defines illegal migrant in Section 2(1)(b) as any one who either entered India without valid travel documents or over stayed the validity of such document. The CAB changes this definition by incenting the following proviso in this clause:

“Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act;”

 

The status of illegal migrants makes these people ineligible for applying for citizenship through registration and naturalisation. Removing that makes them eligible for the same.

Another provision the CAB makes is to shorten the period of naturalization from 12 years to 5 years. Which means that they can get citizenship by naturalization in 6 years rather than in 13 years, which is normal time for others.

There is also a provision to drop all legal action that may have been initiated in courts for being illegal migrants and granting them citizenship from the date of their entry into the India.

We should remember that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians who came from ABP are granted these privileges. No provisions which existed for all others coming from any country and of any religion are removed, restricted, curtailed or denied. They stand as they were in CA-1955. This this is not at all a case of snatching anyone’s opportunity, if is a case of making available some facilities to these people.

What is the basis for extending this facility of faster procedure of citizenship to some?

First the countries: two of the three countries names were part of undivided India before 1947. At the time of partition large scale riots and bloodshed led to migration of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists to India from the territories that went to Pakistan, East as well as West. Muslims migrated to Pakistan from the territory of India. The partition was on the basis of primarily Muslim demand of separate home land for them. The Provincial and Central Assembly election in 1956 and 46 were mainly fought on the demand of Pakistan and overwhelming majority of Muslim voted (above 89%) for Muslim League which was demanding Pakistan. Therefore, this kind of migration was a natural outcome of this partition.

The flow of Hindus and Sikhs into India and Muslims into Pakistan was continuing unabated till 1950. To stop this migration and provide security to minorities in both countries Nehru-Liaqat Pact was signed in early 1950. According to this both countries should have provided security to the minorities. India tried and reasonably succeeded, Pakistan did not.

Thereafter, the people of Indian origin who got stuck in these two countries became victims of declared Islamic States and intolerance of majority Muslim population.

The third country included in the list is Afghanistan. This is also a Muslim state. And even much more intolerant than the other two. All thee have a common boarder with India. Thus, the communities names in the CAB from these three countries come to India. and have very limited options to go anywhere else.

Why Muslims are not included? Let’s look at the reasons why this fast tack citizenship provision is being given to the six religious groups mentioned. (1) many of them, particularly some of Hindus and Sikhs, are here for over 50 years without citizenship now. (2) They are illegal migrants as per the definition in CA-1955, and many of them do not have papers to prove their Indian origin as well. Therefore, can apply neither for registration, nor for naturalization. (3) their countries are declared Islamic theological states, which by definition discriminates on the basis of religion. The Muslim majority in these countries is intolerant, that makes life of minorities miserable. (4) Therefore, they can not go back. Meaning: some way has to be found for them to make them Indian citizens.

Maximum number of Muslims who have come here are Bangladeshi. They did not come here for any kind of religious or any other persecution by the state. Actually, there was never a good reason to allow them to cross the border. They came here for economic reasons. If they want to become Indian citizens, they can apply for naturalization, and if they meet the criteria and Indian government thinks fit, can be granted citizenship. Why should the Indian government facilitate their citizenship through faster track? What are the reasons critics of CAB advance for extending the same facility to them? Should the reason for fleeing their country be considered in providing fast track option for citizenship or not? If not, why?

Why Shias and Ahmadis not included?

Shias and Ahmadis are definitely persecuted in Pakistan. But that is a matter of factions within Islam. Ahmadi call themselves Muslim, the whole world recognizes them as Muslims, but Pakistan does not. Under what category would one facilitate their citizenship? And why citizenship? They can seek asylum as refugees and can be treated as so. Shisas in Pakistan are not persecuted by the state, Ahmadis may be. They both are victims of bigotry of the majority. The distinction with the CAB makes is persecution by the state on the basis of religion. Shias and Ahmadis can hardly pass the scrutiny under Article 14 of Constitution of India, while the six religions mentioned in the CAB are likely to.

Why Rohingyas are not included?

May be Rohingyas can be considered for temporary refugee status. But why should any one expect India to extend fast track citizenship to them? What is the logic? Religious persecution, say the Rohingya supporters. One problem is history of Rohingyas. This history includes violence on Rakhines, separatism and terrorism. The one time darling of present day Rohingya supporters Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen from grace because she dared call a spade a spade; that Rohingyas have been involved in violence, separatism, deliberately disrupting process of separating illegal migrants and genuine residents of Myanmar and terrorism. Why should India have special considerations for them?

Why Balochis are not included? 

Balochis don’t want your citizenship. On the maximum they may want temporary political asylum and help in their political struggle. This is a none issue which cri/tics of the CAB are trying to create.

Why Sri Lankan Hindus not included?

They are not persecuted for their religion. It was an ethnic political struggle. And there are chances of rapprochement and their going back.

Is the bill against secularism?

The option of fast track citizenship, change of definition of illegal migrants, withdrawal of legal action if any, and citizenship from date of entry is available to six religious communities, but not to Muslims. ‘Secularism is a doctrine that rejects religion and religious consideration’ in state policy making. This policy clearly considers religion in deciding who is allowed to use the provisions of CAB and who is not. Therefore, the decision is against secularism, it is discriminatory against the Muslims. This is the argument as far as I understand advanced by CAB critics.

I have a few issues with this argument. In today’s half-thought-quick-blame atmosphere I must repeat that the problem I see is not with the principle of secularism, but with the application of above stated argument in this particular case.

One device through which the principle of secularism becomes operational is equality rights, another is special minority provisions. The constitution of India provides for special minority rights, and minorities include religious minorities as well. Some of these rights are listed under articles 29, 30, 347 and 350. Thus, Indian constitution does consider religions as a basis for policy making when there are good enough reasons and when protection is being provided to minorities. These are the examples of rights which I think the minorities should have and to my mind do not violate the principle of secularism in spite of religious minorities being included in them. This to my mind is thoughtful application of principles of secularism and equality; as against dogmatic rigidity of the same.

There are also examples of legal differences based on religion which to my mind violate the principle of secularism but are part of the Indian legal system. One such difference is separate personal laws for religious communities. Another is a little known acceptance of an Islamic concept of ‘Waqf by User’. Ayodhya judgment of the Supreme Court discusses this principle in detail. In a nutshell the principle state that: if a group of Muslims is allowed to offer namaz on a piece of property, if namaz is public in charater (that any muslim can join) and continues for a sufficiently long time; then that property automatically turns into Waqf property and the original owner can not get it back. This is even if the original owner was not aware of this law, had absolutely no intention of gifting the property, and is not even a Muslim. The same right is not available to any other religious community in India, as far as I know.

What do these examples mean? To me they mean that the principle of secularism has to be applied thoughtfully and not dogmatically. And when exceptions are made to protect genuine rights or addressing genuine problems of minorities, then the principle of secularism is not considered violated.

The six religious communities mentioned in the CAB are clearly persecuted in the three Islamic states of ABF, actually a genocide is going on, whether we admit or not. Muslims are not persecuted because of their religion. There might be within the religion sectarian issues (Shisas and Ahmadis) and political issues of Balochis, but they are different in character; do not fall under the same category. Therefore, making special provisions for these six minorities in these three Islamic countries is not a violation of the principle of secularism to my mind.

The issue of article 14

The article 14 of constitution of India 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. We can consider two questions here, (1) Can the minority argument we saw in the last section for Indian citizens be extended to persons who are not Indian citizens but are in the territory of India? (2) does CAB violate this article?

Regarding question (1) I do not see why it should not be extended to people who are on the Indian soil but are not citizens?

Question (2) demands a little more thought. The first part of the article is about equality before the law, and the second is about equal protection of the laws. The equal protection of law demands that “equals would be treated equally, whilst un-equals should not be treated unequally”. I am not a legal person but at this moment (till someone enlightens me) I believe that this principle is accepted under Indian constitution and referred to as “principle of reasonable difference”. I do not know what could be a clearer reasonable difference than continuous religion-based persecution for some and in principle absence of such persecution for others. We should remember that the persecution here referred to is persecution by the state, and not because of sectarian attacks on each other within a religion. Thus, to my mind the CAB does not violate this article. Yes, there is difference, but this difference does not constitute ‘discrimination against Muslims’, neither the bill target Muslims.

Can the bill be used against Muslims in NRC?

In a country like India, riddled with corruption and religious biases (even bigotry) what sane person can deny such possibility? Yes, this is possible. But how many laws do we have which have been and continuously being misused to harass people? Just to name a few, laws against dowry and against caste atrocities are misused many times. Still we need them in our patriarchal and casteist society because otherwise the weaker will be more vulnerable. And also, because by cleaning and tightening the system we can reduce the instances of misuse.

In my view we should spend our energy, good will, zeal and power to prevent misuse of the CAB rather than in opposing it and proving ourselves insensitive to the unfortunate people who have tried to escape religious persecution. It is interesting that no critic of CAB has suggested anything serious to solve the problem of these people.

Should imputing motives be acceptable in public debate?

The record of BJP in not taking a tough stand against cow-lynching cases, statements of its leaders, involvement of some of leaders in riots, etc. can not be denied. Its obvious use of religion (ex. Ram Mandir) in elections also cannot be denied. One can neither support such acts nor can condone. And still I believe one has to be very careful in imputing motives in every single case.

The liberals all opposed triple talaq bill on unreasonable ground and imputed motives of exposing Muslim men to punishment while Hindus remain unaffected if they abandon their wives. The argument is clearly wrong. Simply because the law does not allow a Hindu husband to escape responsibility if he abandoned wife goes to court. What motive did liberals have here? The question I am asking is: what makes liberals above suspicion of motives? If someone say that the critics of CAB are against Hindus (as Hindus are the majority among the beneficiaries of CAB) and do not want to allow the state to give them citizenship, or that the liberals are actually indirectly bargaining for allowing Muslim illegal migrants from Bangladesh; how can such charges be answered?

To my mind in the current dishonest scenario all have objectionable motives and we as citizens are condemned to live and navigate our paths in this muck. Therefore, staying with the things which could be established with facts and reason is the best way at the moment.

Meaning of my story

Finally, coming to my story on the FB which attracted adverse comments and some personal attacks. First, I stand by what I said in that little fable, stand by all its meaning. Second, fable writing is not my area, I should have been more careful against possibility of misinterpretation, deliberate as well as genuine. Third, people did misinterpret.

I thought that I am addressing people who are in this debate and have been reading some of my pieces on CAB. Therefore, took much common understanding for granted. The fable obviously is too direct, that is how I meant it. The six critically ill patients are obviously taken from the CAB list of religious communities. Critical illness is their problem of citizenship in the absence of any possibility of going back. Thus, they face either persecution and be condemned to misery in their original countries or live in India without citizenship rights. The 15 not critically ill are to indicate illegal migrants without persecution. India has no obligation to them to grant citizenship as I explained above. And their possibility to return back to their countries is still open. Or since they have come of their own freewill illegally, some other provision should be made to them. The numbers 6 and 15 are somewhat disproportional, but as far as I know the number of six religious communities who will get CAB benefits is less that the illegal migrants from Bangladesh. I may be mistaken there and would be willing to change my mind if get authentic figures. But want to make clear that both the numbers, 6 and 15, indicate illegal migrants only.

I still say the something, under the misguided interpretation of secularism opposing CAB means either being insensitive to the persecuted or demanding equal treatment for unequal. Both are objectionable as far as I understand.

Conclusion

I am under no illusion that this article will convince people in favor of CAB or that it will make my thinking any clearer to them. I also needed it purely for myself, to examine my own contentions as clearly as possible. Therefore, it is to convince no one and it is to convince everyone. That is the character of public debates.

I do not agree with the current dominant sentiment expressed in public debate against CAB. Those who do not like it can argue against it, if they like. Will try to respond to such people, even if their views are completely opposite of mine. Those who get too angry can attack, and I reserve my right to decide to respond or not; or when.

All I say is: clear, free from politically correct expression of views and arguments serves democracy and freedom the best. Paraphrasing on Socrates will also add, unexamined positions and views of our gurus, teachers, masters, icons and leaders are not worth supporting and chanting.

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15th December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


India needs upright clear-sighted intellectuals to defend itself

December 10, 2019

Rohit Dhankar

The metaphor of India and Bharat are often used to understand the wide gap between relatively less educated and poorer rural India and urban India. The discourse on nationalism, patriotism and love for the country has brought to my mind a distinction which remains unnoticed or at the least unused so far, but also has a connection to this one.

There are Indians who are educated, have resources and often travel abroad. Most of these Indians have relatives outside India and all their children have aspirations of being educated in western universities. These people have a broad global outlook and possibility of working and settling down anywhere in the world. Many of them have arrangements in foreign universities for teaching assignments.  Let’s call this class Winged Indians (WI). Being a WI does not imply that they do not have roots in Indian culture, actually they may have very deep roots and understand Indian culture very well. It is only that they also have wings to fly anywhere in addition to their roots which can be easily up-rooted.

The overwhelming majority of Indians are much less educated and much poorer. They do not have relatives in western countries and education for their children is very tough struggle even within India. These people can have no dreams of flying to any other country and settling down there. Some of them may fly to Gulf countries as labourers, but that is very different. These people have only one country to look up to: India, that is Bharat. Let’s call them Rooted Indians (RI). RIs may not have great understanding of Indian culture and many of them may not even have a very clear idea of India as a nation or a country. But they have nowhere else to go, they see it as the only home they have.

These two groups of Indians naturally have very different attitudes to country and on issues of patriotism and nationalism. WIs are very relaxed and open about such issues; often to the point of being unconcerned. The extreme WIs deride the sentiments of patriotism and nationalism and pride themselves on being free from such retrograde feelings. RIs feel much closer relationship and belongingness to the country; no doubt of necessity as this big bad ugly Bharat is all that they have. Also, this is all they have seen and know about. The RIs cannot afford unconcern and demeaning outlook to India, patriotism and nationalism. If they do, they have no peg to hang their identity on; while RIs can change their identities like chameleons.

Indian discourse on politics and particularly of nation related issues—patriotism, nationalism, citizenship, history, culture—is completely in the hands of WIs and the lesser mortals who see the WIs as their icons. WIs are the people who are heard and published and aired in India and abroad; their followers create a dust storm of such ideas at the ground level.

The Hindus among the WIs are very hesitant to admit ownership of Indian cultural heritage, they want to show themselves as liberated universal humanists. I do not think that Indian heritage in any way contradicts universal humanism, to my mind it rather prepares the way for it. But WIs think differently. They are positively embarrassed if someone reminds them their Hindu heritage. Their hallmark is that they were unable to criticise even ISIS without first pointing out something bad in Hinduism (completely out of context) and then separating ISIS from Islam. After these two rituals they could criticise ISIS with further concessions made for obnoxious role of the western powers. By that time their criticism mostly sounded like a praise. This I have mentioned only to show how defensive and embarrassed they feel regarding India and Hinduism; and how morally bound they feel to defend Islam.

Presently there is a fierce ideological struggle going on in India. On one side are the WIs and on the other are Sanghi Hindus (SH). The RIs align with neither of them. SHs are too narrow mined for RIs and WIs are beyond their ken to understand. There is no one to present the views and interest of the RIs. The SH are intellectually deficient and are no match to the WIs in spinning language and international networking. First, the SH defence of India is overly Hinduised, and second they do not know how to spin an illogical web that blinds you to their fallacies. The WIs are masters in the second.

This situation forces me to come to the conclusion that India needs a class of upright clearsighted intellectuals to defend itself. Upright because the WIs (which is the intellect of India presently) are not so. They live on their reputation built among the specific circles of liberals. They rarely have a spine to criticise anything which is accepted by these circles, and even if someone of them commits such a mistake, a host of others attacks and brings him/her down to knees.

If we take the presently hotly debated Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 (CAB-2019 the situation will be clear. One, every one knows by now that the basically acquiring Indian citizenship is governed by the Citizenship Act 1955 (CA-1955). AC-1955 does not discriminate on the basis of religion and the CAB-2019 does not curtail any provisions already made in CA19-55. What CAB-2019 does is provides for faster facilitation of acquiring citizenship through registration and naturalisation and allows certain persecuted religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan apply even when they do not have valid travel documents. This facility is available only to those who have entered India on or before 31st December 2014. This faster facility is not made available to Muslims coming from the said countries.

Now, one can certainly argue, right or wrong, that the bill is discriminatory against Muslims coming to India from the three mentioned countries. It could be a matter of debate if such a discrimination is constitutional or not, whether it is against the idea of India or not, whether it had become a necessity for India or not, and so on.

But declaring that ‘now citizenship in India will be decide on the basis of religion’, ‘No Muslims, this is India’, ‘India has become a Hindu Rashtra’, ‘India has become a theocratic state’, ‘India has become Hindu Pakistan’, and so on is clearly maligning India.

These pronouncements are against India, not against BJP alone. Criticising BJP is not a problem. Criticising the bill is no problem. Deriding India as a theocratic state is, equating it with Pakistan is, maligning India as a Hindu Rashtra is. Saying that the CAB-2019 impinges on the rights of Muslim citizens of India is a huge problem, it does not.

To my mind the bill facilitates faster citizenship to those persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are residing in India for decades. To deny persecution of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians in these three Islamic theocratic states is impossible for any objective person, unless s/he happens to be a WI. The Muslims who have come from Bangladesh and Pakistan to India have not come here because of religious persecution. I do not understand why they should be offered citizenship on faster track? They can apply normally if they want.

Shias and Ahmadias are persecuted in Pakistan. But they also campaigned aggressively for separate Muslim country. They got their promised land. They have to fight their political battle there if they are still persecuted in their ideal theocracies, created by their significant help. Rohingyas are another example of persecuted minority in Myanmar. But it is a complicated story that has much Rohingya-bigotry in the background. Reading their history of separatism and violence on Rakhines has to be taken in to account when one decides on them.

In my view the people who deride and attack India for CAB-2019 are essentially arguing for faster citizenship to huge number of Bangladeshi Muslims. If there are any arguments for granting citizenship to illegal Bangladeshi Muslim migrants, I would like to know them.  Views and ways of thinking as I have expressed above may be wrong, and can be criticised. Counter arguments can be given. But a balanced person will not malign India and its democratic process for that.

The WIs need to be countered in side India and internationally not for a fair critique of the bill but for maligning India. SHs are ideologically unfit and intellectually deficient to do that. That is why we need a class of balanced intellectuals who can be sensitive to RIs, who can remember our tradition and our constitution with commitment.

We are still a nation, and want to remain one who believes in

अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसाम् ।

उदारचरितानां तू वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् । । ७१ । । (महोपनिषद ६.७१)

“Only small-minded discriminate saying: One is a bandhu; the other is a stranger. For those who broad-minded the entire world constitutes but a family.” Therefore, no discrimination on faith, but the faiths have to accept the same principle; no faith can be allowed to be special and discriminate against other people.

We are still a nation who believes in

न तत्परस्य संदाद्यातात्प्रतिकूलम यदात्मन: ।

एष संक्षिप्तो धर्मेर्ततवप्र: यन्दामकः ॥ (महाभारत १३.११४.०८)

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of Righteousness. One by acting in a different way by yielding to desire, becomes guilty of unrighteousness.” Therefore, no atrocities to anyone, but no one can be allowed to perpetrate atrocities on others as well.

We need to protect our constitution and its promise of secularism, equality, justice, freedom and dignity to all without discrimination.

For that we need intellectuals who do not make false exaggerated claims to prove their point. Who do not vie with each other to attract attention by being abusing India.  We need intellectuals who can criticise each and everything that is against these principles but without abusing us for what we are not, nor we want to become. Also, we need to silence, through pure force of reason, these Winged Indians who declare India a Hindu Pakistan on the drop of a hat.

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10 December 2019