The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu has told the Supreme Court that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, is “against the Tamil race” as it “keeps out” from its purview the Tamil refugees who came to India from Sri Lanka where they “faced religious persecution as they were predominantly Hindu”.
In an additional affidavit filed in the top court, the party’s organising secretary R S Bharathi said, “The impugned Act is against Tamil race and keeps out the similarly placed Tamils who are residing in Tamil Nadu from the purview of the Act…the impugned Act ignores the reality that for several decades Tamil refugees who have settled in Tamil Nadu are deprived of fundamental rights and other rights due to non-citizenship and due to non-naturalisation and the impugned Act does not provide for any reasons to exclude them.”
The party contended that the Act is also “arbitrary as it relates to only three countries viz Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and confines to only six religions viz Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities and expressly excludes Muslim religion”.
The affidavit said, “The Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka which is a Buddhist majority has historically considered the Tamils as invaders, infringing on Sinhalese territory…As per the Clause 9 of the Sri Lankan Constitution, the Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, while assuring all rights to all religions”.
Pointing out that as per the ‘Statements of Objects and Reasons’ of CAA, “the basis for inclusion of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh was that their Constitutions provided for a specific state religion due to which the religious minorities faced persecution on grounds of religion”, the party said, “the situation in Sri Lanka is akin to the one in the…three countries as not only the Indian Tamils have faced religious persecution as they were predominantly Hindu, they have faced rampant persecution due to their minority status since Ceylon’s independence from the British rule”.
Pointing to the various deals between the governments of India and Sri Lanka for rehabilitation and repatriation of the Tamil population, the affidavit said that as on January 4, 2010, there were 4,61,631 of these registered expatriates.
It said the counter-affidavit filed by the government of India “has categorically remained silent to the plight of the Tamil refugees” and contended that “step-motherly behaviour” of the Centre “towards the Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future. Being stateless, they have been denied of employment in the government services or in organised private sectors, the right to hold property, right to vote, enjoyment of govt benefits received by the citizens and others despite there being an agreement for the same”.
The affidavit said that “due to such an ambiguity, they are forced to stay in camps where they are often exploited having no prospects of security in future. The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities has left these refugees handicapped and distraught. These refugees who arrived at the country of their origin i.e. India with the hope that the lndo-Sri Lankan agreements will protect them from the ensuing persecution so that they could have a brighter future, discrimination-free environment, better standards of life are now in far worse state than before. The requests for citizenship by these Tamil refugees who have spent years in refugee camps have fallen on deaf ears” of the Centre.
The “reasons for their fleeing from Sri Lanka has not changed as many displaced persons escaped their country due to the large-scale violence and unsafe circumstances and came to India hoping for a colourful future”.
The DMK said the CAA “introduces a completely new basis for the grant/non-grant of citizenship on the grounds of religion, which destroys the basic fabric of secularism. There is no reasons as to why Muslims were altogether excluded even in the…countries wherein they have suffered from persecution. The impugned Act firstly gives undue advantage and benefits to illegal migrants while failing to achieve the real objective of the enactment i.e. to provide support to persons persecuted on grounds of religion, secondly, such classification is made applicable only to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh having not rational nexus with policy and object of the impugned Act despite the fact that the Clause 9 of the Sri Lankan Constitution itself gives importance to Buddhism over all other religions”.