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CAA Implemented After Four Years: Are Rohingyas, Srilankan Tamils Proof of ‘Selective Exclusion’

After four years of dangling in distress, The BJP Government has implemented the Citizen’s Amendment Act in India allowing legal rights and eligibility to become citizens for migrants who fled their nations because of persecution on a religious basis, as the state clarifies. The law includes six communities— Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist & Parsis who came to India before 31st December 2014 mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan. The exclusion of Muslim refugees brings up the name of Rohingya Muslims. The government believes the reason to not include them under the CAA bill is that there is ‘Hope’ of betterment of their situation in their parent country & they might return. While Mass media has made this perception about these communities under threat in their parent countries, the ground reality & intentions of the central government have looked different.

India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah on 11th March 2024 announced the implementation of the Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA) in the parliament. The Law came to be implemented four years after the bill was passed in the parliament in late 2019. The contents of the Bill and further the idea of a National Register for Citizens (NRC) invoked Muslims in North India to take to the streets with weeks of protest. The most vibrant of places were in the capital city only, central educational institutions, Jamia Millia Islamia & Jawaharlal Nehru University became the center of attention when its students were involved in mass protests and brawls with the forces. The extent of the situation in Delhi went far beyond when security forces breached the university gates of Jamia Millia and entered the campus to beat down the students, thus breaching the code of conduct regarding no entry of police forces in educational institutions. The backlash suffered after its announcement in 2019 making the delay of its implementation clear, it has now arrived as a repetition when the bill gets implemented a month before the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections.

Who benefits from CAA?

The announcement of the implementation of the Bill, contrary to the backlash, has seen celebrations too. Hindus & and Sikhs who migrated from Pakistan mostly in the 1960s were seen celebrating in areas of Delhi NCR and Jammu. It has rather come as a relief for people who have often claimed to be abused for being refugees. Well, that situation has changed for some now, but the migrant communities of Muslims, Srilankan Tamils, and migrants from Bhutan and Nepal will continue to face the inequality in Indian society and law.

Why this law?

The need for this Citizen’s Amendment Act, as the government has often said, came because of the ‘Inequality’, of the partition and the further failure of neighboring countries to protect its minorities from any sort of religious or ethnic oppression. In the aftermath of the partition, there were still small moves of Muslims into Pakistan and Hindus into India, owing to their dissatisfaction with the treatment they were facing. The insurgency in East Pakistan in 1970, just before the formation of Bangladesh made nearly a million Hindus and Muslims migrate to the nearest Indian states of West Bengal and Assam. Further many Afghani and Srilankan migrants have been living in India for more than four decades now. The government has eventually characterized these communities as those who have faced ‘Oppression’ & ‘Expulsion’ in their countries and they chose to move to India knowing its secular laws. However, the present government has from the start of its reign stressed several things in this matter that have not aligned with the interests of its largest minority.

If ‘Persecution’ & ‘Expulsion’ are the Criteria, why not for Rohingya Muslims?

The BJP government has many times called for the deportation of the Rohingya Muslims from the country. They are the only Muslim migrant community in the country that passes the categorization of the Bill’s ‘Persecuted’ & ‘Expulsion’ words. Here arises the question that if the government has made remarks assuring that the law is not against Muslims, why has it not included the Rohingyas in the list, if they faced the same oppression and resorted to India to save their lives?

They have faced many threats of deportation to their home country where they are openly ransacked in a genocide. Several remarks made on the Rohingyas by Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister and Former President of BJP have raised many doubts. “It was asked why were Rohingyas not included in the Bill. Rohingyas don’t come to India directly. They go to Bangladesh and then infiltrate into India from there”, he said during his CAB speech in 2019. The Case of Rohingyas has become more vibrant ever since that, most of them have resided in Delhi for too long and the Urban Ministry has shown concerns regarding their living conditions. In light of improving their housing facilities, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister, Hardeep Puri said that Rohingya refugees will be shifted to EWS flats in Bakkarwala, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a press statement later clarified that it has not given any directions for the same. This received a very quick response from the Ministry of Home Affairs via X (formerly Twitter).

“MHA has directed the Government of Delhi to ensure that the Rohingya illegal foreigners will continue at the present location at Kanchan Kunj, Madanpur Khadar as MHA has already taken up the matter of deportation of illegal foreigners with the concerned country through the Ministry of External Affairs,” stated MHA.

The Home Minister later followed up with a series of tweets upholding the decision of MHA and also stressing the deportation of the Rohingyas.

Is it a ‘Selective Exclusion’?

The Rohingyas are not very high in number and they pass the criteria, their exclusion from this Bill and the ignorance of their pleas for basic rights have made the remarks ‘Law against Muslims’, ‘Selective exclusion’, and ‘Islamophobia’ very much vibrant and discernible.

What’s next for these communities?

The Srilankan Tamils have since the start of their movement in the Jaffna region of Northern Sri Lanka seen sympathy from fellow Tamil speakers from India. When the clashes between the Sri Lankan forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) took new heights eventually resulting in a civil war, lots of Srilankan Tamils migrated to Tamil Nadu and parts of Southern India, the majority of which continued to live there. The Nepalese and Bhutanese more or less tell the same story. This leaves the Rohingyas who don’t share the same fate at all. They have lacked the support of the communities with whom they put up, made a constant direct target of the refugee crisis, and threatened with deportation by the administration. Their living conditions continue to worsen amidst the spiteful woes of the outskirts of urban areas while the situation in their parent country shows no signs of betterment.

Zubair Abdullah is a student pursuing Sociology Honours from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Sania Parween

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Written by Zubair Abdullah

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