India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act has united practically the whole European Parliament against it. Five resolutions by different groups in it — from centre-right to social democratic — look set to move resolutions against the modified citizenship law, two of which will be debated and voted on later this week.
These groups comprise 559 members in a House of 751, a huge majority. They called the CAA “dangerous and divisive” and apt to create the “largest statelessness crisis in the world”. A relatively small sixth group is supportive of New Delhi, but called for an impartial probe into “excessive use of force by security forces” against anti-CAA protesters.
It seems that in Europe a shadow has fallen over the perception of India, whose civilisational heritage, the power of its non-violent anti-colonial movement that brought it independence, and its purposeful effort to build democracy in an extremely diverse country, had been extolled by Europeans in the modern era.
As yet, this perhaps doesn’t not yet amount to political isolation. However, if the NPR-NRC processes in the offing casts doubt on the citizenship of a very large number of people (the possibility of which was shown by the NRC in Assam), with Hindus among them saved by the discriminatory CAA but Muslims being sent to detention centres, then it is reasonable to think that India could just face ostracism in Europe.
The rise of fascism in parts of Europe, war and displacement caused by it on a history-bending scale, and the subsequent revulsion against fascism, are relatively recent happenings. Arguably, the European mentality is more sensitive to aggression and assault on a religio-ethnic basis than is probably the case with other parts of the world. Recently, EU ambassadors in New Delhi declined to visit Kashmir on a “guided tour”.
In the worst case scenario, grave doubts arising in Europe on the ideological and political intention of the Indian government over the adoption of discriminatory policies toward sections of its own citizens, and traducing their human rights, can lead to serious consequences on the political, security and economy-trade matrix. That could make India vulnerable to the insidious designs of unfriendly elements in the neighborhood and beyond.
The government’s familiar line — that the CAA does not take away the citizenship of Muslim Indians — has, quite rightly, cut no ice in Europe. It impresses only the ardent supporters of the ruling BJP. The reason is that the CAA’s opponents don’t argue that the amended law will take away anyone’s citizenship. That’s a bogey the government sets up artificially in order to knock it down. The CAA is opposed on two counts — one, that it changes the citizenship rules on a discriminatory basis in violation of our constitutional principles; and two, that when seen together with NPR-NRC, it can strip Indians of a specific community alone of their citizenship.
We can only hope that the rising tide of protests against the CAA within the country and sharp criticism of it in important international spheres will make New Delhi see reason....