Ranjona Banerji: Sitting on the fence on CAB

10 Dec,2019

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Lok Sabha passed one of India’s most controversial bills last night, by a margin of 311 to 80. I did not watch Indian television news last night but scouring this morning’s news updates, getting cogent and relevant information is almost impossible. Even looking for something as simple as getting to know who voted for, who abstained, where the missing MPs are and who they are has been impossible so far.

Many news outlets have details of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s speech, many rely on Twitter to get reactions, which any reader can also do, some give us details of the division of votes on amendments introduced by various parties. But since the most important information of all is missing, there is no heft to the reports.

Is it because the bill was passed at midnight? In which case, the reports should make it clear that they will update on the division of votes with a party-wise break up as soon as possible.

The Wire provides a comprehensive report, but with the numbers missing:

https://thewire.in/politics/lok-sabha-passes-citizenship-amendment-bill

It is important that Indians know how India’s political parties voted on this bill which is a clear discriminatory exercise against Muslims. Clubbed with the National Register of Citizens, the Citizenship Amendment Bill aims to discriminate against Muslims in India and outside. As we have already seen with the implementation of NRC in Assam, there has been sheer chaos and a humanitarian and democratic crisis.

There are already protests and law and order problems in some parts of India because of this bill. Students unions across India have jumped in. The downright lies about the Partition of India which the Union Home Minister passed off as justifications for this discriminatory bill also need to be called out by every media house. The complete lack of education in the Sangh Parivar ranks cannot become the standard and norm for India. India needs to be informed that its government belongs to an organisation which had nothing to do with India’s Freedom Movement and was in fact the originator of the “two nation theory”. And if the media does not inform the people…

For those journalists and media houses who would rather sit on the fence, the CAB is dangerous because it strikes at the very root of our democracy. In the garb of trying to restrict infiltration, it in fact allows the entry of people into India on the basis of religion. No wonder that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is considering sanctions against Amit Shah for introducing this bill.

https://www.uscirf.gov/news-room/press-releases-statements/uscirf-raises-serious-concerns-and-eyes-sanctions

The international community is not fooled by the Government’s pretence that this bill has nothing to do with Muslims.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/09/world/asia/india-muslims-citizenship-narendra-modi.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/10/india-braces-for-protests-over-citizenship-bill-excluding-muslims?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_b-gdnnews&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1575940172

 

https://time.com/5746688/india-citizenship-amendment-bill/

 

The Hindu has placed the bill in perspective in the grimmest terms possible, which is what it deserves: “brazenly discriminatory”, “unequal, unsecular”.

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unequal-unsecular/article30259807.ece

How will the Indian media play this as the day unfolds? Will it be as brave as The Hindu? Will it hide behind political parties to fire its potshots from their shoulders? Will it play to the majoritarian gallery and try and exacerbate religious tensions to gain viewership?

NDTV has cut through the morass and asked legal experts on the constitutionality of the bill. We need more of this.

https://www.ndtv.com/video/shows/reality-check/ndtv-speaks-to-india-s-top-legal-experts-about-the-citizenship-bill-534626

 

There’s a long road ahead. And here I’m talking about the future of India.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal

 

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