A Welcome Development

In a welcome development, the contentious Citizenship (amendment) Bill and the one on banning triple talaq have lapsed  as they  could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha which adjourned sine die on Wednesday.

The Budget session was the last Parliament session of the present government.  General elections are due this summer.  Government lacked the numbers in Rajya Sabha to pass the two bills and the  opposition had been opposing their provisions. 

According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill,  which is sought to replace the Citizenship Act of 1955, illegal migrants from  minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be eligible for Indian citizenship. It  seeks to permit illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi religious communities coming from these countries into India and not be imprisoned or deported. It also wants the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be reduced from at least 11 to six years for such migrants. The Bill, however, does not extend this benefit  to illegal Muslim migrants.

Similarly,  as per the provisions of the Triple Talaq bill,  the practice of talaq-e- biddat or instant triple talaq  will  attract a jail term of three years for the husband.  As per the law, instant triple talaq would be a non-bailable and cognisable offence. The husband could also be fined and the quantum of fine would be decided by the magistrate hearing the case. So, keen was the BJP government to implement this bill that it issued two successive ordinances in the absence of a parliamentary approval. 

Both bills were inspired by the BJP ideology which seeks to  remake India into a Hindurashtra.  It privileges Hindus over other communities. This has rendered the  other communities especially Muslims as the second class citizens. In fact,  Muslims have been at the receiving end of the BJP's toxic politics as the us versus them narrative against the vulnerable community has helped built up the party's support base. This mindset informs the bills on citizenship and triple talaq.   The party brought this bill even when  between Hindus and Muslims, the separation rate is higher among the former. Only around five in thousand Muslim women are divorced. But the BJP made triple talaq one of its major Muslim issues. Though apparently an attempt to reform the Muslim community, the BJP framed even this issue in terms of its communal politics. 

Similarly Citizenship bill  hits at the core of India's secular character guaranteed by the Constitution and its enactment  would have been one more step in the direction of turning India into a Hindu state. But the moves like these have deepened the anxiety of the Muslims in the country. It has also caused more insecurity in Kashmir where currently the fear of a large-scale demographic change following the apprehended tinkering with the Article 35A has already generated a deep sense of siege. It is thus relieving that the bills have lapsed. One hopes that the new government is formed of secular minded parties and they do away with both the bills.

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