CAB[1] and NRC

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.


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 Responses to CAB[1] and NRC

  1. Anonymous says:

    CAB पर मेरी असहमतियां
    दरअसल इसमें कोई रीजनएबल डिफरेंसस करने के बजाय मनमाना डिफरेंस किया गया है इसे जरा इस लेख में समझें
    मोटे तौर पर समझा जाए तो बिल में यह प्रावधान किया गया है कि 31 दिसंबर, 2014 को या उससे पहले भारत में आकर रहने वाले अफ़ग़ानिस्तान, बांग्लादेश और पाकिस्तान के हिंदुओं, सिखों, बौद्धों, जैनियों, पारसियों और ईसाइयों को ज़रूरी दस्तावेज़ों के अभाव में भी अवैध प्रवासी नहीं माना जाएगा। नागरिकता प्राप्त करने पर ऐसे व्यक्तियों को भारत में उनके प्रवेश की तारीख़ से भारत का नागरिक माना जाएगा।
    इस तरह से इस संशोधन में दो तरह के वर्गीकरण हुए पहला धर्म के आधार पर नागरिकता का और दूसरा देश के आधार पर नागरिकता देने का। यानी अगर आप ग़ैर इस्लाम धर्म से जुड़े हैं तभी नागरिकता मिलेगी और अगर आप पाकिस्तान, अफ़ग़ानिस्तान और बांग्लादेश से आए हैं तब नागरिकता मिलेगी। यहां एक तर्कहीन मनमाना विभेदीकरण है क्या चीन और श्रीलंका में ऐसे अल्पसंख्यक नहीं रहते क्या जो कि प्रताड़ित है इन 3 देशों का नाम लिया जाना भाजपा की खास रणनीति के तहत किया गया खैर वह आगे की बात है जरा संविधान को समझें
    भारतीय संविधान के अनुच्छेद 14 की भाषा है – राज्य, भारत के राज्यक्षेत्र किसी भी व्यक्ति को विधि के समक्ष समता से या विधियों के समान संरक्षण से वंचित नहीं करेगा। यानी अनुच्छेद 14 सभी व्यक्तियों की बात करता है, केवल नागरिकों की नहीं। अब इसके साथ अनुच्छेद 15 की भाषा को भी समझना ज़रूरी है। अनुच्छेद 15 के चार भाग हैं और चारों भाग भारत के नागरिकों पर लागू होते हैं। पहला कहता है कि नागरिकों के बीच धर्म, मूलवंश, जाति, लिंग या जन्मस्थान के आधार पर कोई भेदभाव नहीं किया जाएगा। इसी अनुच्छेद का भाग तीन और चार भारतीय संविधान की प्रस्तावना में उल्लिखित समानता और सामाजिक न्याय जैसे मूल्यों को हासिल करने के लिए कुछ वर्गों को विशेष सहूलियत देने की बात भी करता है। जैसे कि अनुसूचित जाति व जनजातियों के आरक्षण से जुड़े नियम- क़ानून।
    कहने का मतलब यह है कि भारतीय संविधान के अनुच्छेद 15 संविधान की प्रस्तावना में लिखित समानता और सामाजिक न्याय के मूल्यों को अपने समाज में लागू करने के लिए यह प्रावधान करता है कि राज्य नागरिकों के बीच में भेदभाव कर सकता है।
    लेकिन अनुच्छेद 14 के तहत सभी व्यक्तियों के लिए समान विधि यानी क़ानून बनाने का नियम है। इसलिए भारतीय राज्य की यह संवैधानिक बाध्यता है कि वह सभी व्यक्तियों को जिसमें नागरिक और ग़ैर-नागरिक सभी शामिल है, सभी के लिए एकसामन नियम बनाए जब तक विभेदीकृत क़ानून बनाने का कोई युक्तियुक्त या तर्कसंगत मक़सद न हो। इसका निर्धारण इस बात से होगा कि व्यक्तियों के बीच अलग नियम बनाने का मक़सद क्या है? इस लिहाज़ से देखें तो इस बिल के अंतिम पेज पर इस बिल की उद्देशिका लिखी है। जिसमें केवल ग़ैर मुस्लिम सदस्यों को नागरिकता देने के लिए धार्मिक प्रताड़ना को वजह के तौर पर रखा गया है।
    यानी पाकिस्तान, अफ़ग़ानिस्तान और बांग्लादेश में ग़ैर मुस्लिम सदस्यों के साथ धार्मिक प्रताड़ना होती है इसलिए यहाँ से आने वाले ग़ैर मुस्लिम सदस्यों को नागरिकता मिल जाएगी। यानी व्यक्तियों के बीच प्रताड़ना का चुनाव करने के लिए धर्म का आधार बनाया जा रहा है, जब उस प्रताड़ना पर भारतीय राज्य का कोई हक़ नहीं है। वह प्रताड़ना न भारतीय समाज में हो रही है और न ही भारतीय राज्य की अनदेखी की वजह से हो रही है। इसलिए अगर प्रताड़ना को ही आधार बनाना है तो यह ज़रूरी है कि नागरिकता देने संबंधी नियम बनाने के लिए धर्म के आधार पर भेदभाव न करे। संविधान के अनुच्छेद 14 के महत्व को समझे, भारतीय राज्य में व्यक्तियों को सदस्यता देने के लिए वैसे आधारों का चुनाव न करे जिस पर व्यक्तिओं का नियंत्रण नहीं होता है जैसे कि धर्म। और ऐसा करना पूरी तरह से संविधान और संवैधानिक भावनाओं के ख़िलाफ़ है।
    इसके बाद वह सारे तर्क तो हैं ही जो यह कहते हैं कि भारत के पड़ोस में केवल बांग्लादेश, अफ़ग़ानिस्तान और पाकिस्तान ही नहीं है और भी सारे राज्य हैं। और उन राज्यों में भी कई समुदायों के साथ ज़्यादतियों की ख़बर आती है।
    अगर सरकार का तर्क कि भारत के सिर्फ़ इन तीन ही पड़ोसी देशों में किसी धर्म को राजकीय धर्म घोषित किया गया है तो यह कमजोर तर्क है दरअसल श्रीलंका के संविधान में भी बौद्ध शासन की बात कही गई है।
    अगर सरकार की चिंता प्रताड़ित लोगों की है तो फिर धार्मिक आधार पर होने वाले प्रताड़ना ही को क्यों आधार बनाया गया है, क्षेत्रीयता जैसे कि पाकिस्तान में बलूचिस्तान और प्रजातिगत जैसे नेपाल के तराई वाले इलाक़े में और श्रीलंका के तमिल के आधार पर होने वाले उत्पीड़न को क्यों नहीं आधार बनाया जा रहा है? आख़िर भारत ऐसे उत्पीड़न के बारे में भी कहता-बोलता आया है? अगर हमने धार्मिक आधार पर होने वाले उत्पीड़न को अपनी चिंता का मुख्य विषय बनाया है तो फिर पाकिस्तान के अहमदिया और शिया मतावलंबियों, चीन के हाथों परेशानहाल तिब्बतियों, म्यांमार के रोहिंग्या और श्रीलंका के मुस्लिम तथा हिन्दुओं को क्यों छोड़ दिया है?
    यह लेख एक वेब पेज से लिया गया है कुछ बाते जोड़ी गई है।


  2. Shailaja Menon says:

    Two points:
    1. I reject the logical basis of your argument that CAB should be viewed in isolation of NRC, because they are two parts of a whole. It takes remarkable short-sightedness, or long training in analytical philosophy to propose this. I can still see clearly enough, and have a relatively philosophically untrained mind: so your arguments do not convince me.
    2. You say over and over again that CAB by itself does not harm Indian citizens. Arvind Kejriwal has recently questioned this. We don’t have the wherewithal to provide reliable documentation, employment, housing, health for our existing citizens; but, we will now do so for lakhs of illegal immigrants? See his response here:


    • rdhankar says:

      1. Dear Shailaja, Requesting again, lets remain away from personal comments. I admit I am blind like a bat and you are insightful like Buddha. Now, lets get past it, not refer to our personal qualities.
      2. I am not trying to convince you. I am not trying to convince ANY ONE, and I am trying to convince EVERY ONE.
      3. If they were two parts of a whole (a) there could not have been any benefit to any one by CAA alone, which is not the case. (b) The CAA is already signed by the president, NRC for the whole nation we do not even know what are the basis. If you know about the procedure of the NRC for the whole country, eligibility criteria, admissible documents, PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU DO. If you don’t, then you don’t even know what “NRC for the nation means”, and what you are opposing. (c) if you say the they both are parts of the same design (intentions) then almost everything is part of the same design, so one has to derail a democratically elected government.
      4. I say over and over again that CAA is not harmful alone, because people repeat over and over again without paying attention to my arguments, without refuting them. Advising me to listen to Kejriwal without refuting my arguments is part of the same.
      5. I am surprised the people who are so sensitive that some illegal migrants will be lest stateless due to CAA and find this act against humanitarian considerations are so eager to accept a false argument which shows greater insensitivity to other part of the illegal migrants. The people Kejriwal is talking about are already in India. We may not have resources but are we better in the state of ignorance where we don’t even know how many illegal migrants are there in the country?


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