Read in its entirety, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) answers each and every false narrative that is currently sparking violence across the country. In simple terms, the CAA will help thousands of religiously persecuted immigrants, hailing from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who are currently seeking refuge in India. To the question of why Muslims are not included — they are not a religious minority in any of these three countries. Those eligible will now become citizens of India with rights and will lead a better quality of life. The CAA clearly articulates that no Indian citizen, irrespective of his religion, needs to worry. In fact, it is against the law to exclude a person for being a follower of any religion.
That being said, let’s talk about the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It is not about religion at all. Further, the NRC does not exclude transgender, atheist, Adivasis, Dalits, women and those without land with and/or without documents. The rules for a countrywide NRC have not yet being made. But in all probability, going by PIB FAQS, a person will only need show the date and place of birth as per any official document. And, there are a plethora of ways to do this, including, passport, Aadhaar card, driving license, insurance papers, birth certificate, land or house papers, documents issued by public authorities and even the school leaving certificate. Additionally, if a person is illiterate and does not have documents, they can bring witnesses, or any proof that would help. This would then be considered under due process. To add to that, one does not have to prove one’s ancestry dating to or before 1971. This was only for the Assam NRC, mandated by the Assam Accord. The NRC procedure for the rest of the country is entirely different and can be read under The Citizen Rules, 2003.
Why am I writing this? I recently interviewed an entrepreneur from Assam who expressed her support for the CAA. I shared this on my Facebook account and was bashed for it by my fellow Harvard alumnus. What shocked me was that the attacks were neither objective nor based on the content of the interview. The attacks were nasty and personal. Keep in mind that these are people I have shared laughs with, spent time with, and respected. I was taken completely off-guard. I was called “a disgrace” by one of them. Another threatened to “take (me) down from all Harvard networks and groups”. For what? For interviewing a person who did not share their opinion? For expressing a viewpoint that did not match theirs?
I tried to explain the text of the Act, and answered their subjective claims objectively. I also repeatedly implored them to argue objectively, rather than personally — to read the text of the Act and factually point out why they disagreed. What was the reply? Well, let’s just say that it started out with language that is unsuitable for a public forum. As these are private citizens, and peers of mine, I will not expose their identity. While I could have responded back, I refused to do so. Despite their insults, I still regard them as respected alumnus of my alma mater. When I do meet them at school gatherings, I will be cordial and will simply agree to disagree.
However, the problem with liberals is that this basic courtesy of conduct is not reciprocated. My Harvard experience taught me to present factually, listen and consider the other side, even though I may not agree with them. If I cannot have an objective debate with my peers, then how can I expect it from any other liberal?
This is precisely why liberals are losing ground in India. They fail to listen to the other side and do not even consider a viewpoint other than their own. The liberal stance is “my way or the highway”. And, this to me, is detrimental to democratic India. Intelligent people who are bound to have different viewpoints. But, one can never innovate, build, develop, discuss and arrive at the best solution without considering all viewpoints.
The liberals do not do adopt such an attitude. And, it is sad that this very attitude has resulted in misinformation and fake narratives on CAA and NRC which are currently causing physical injury, death, damage and ill feelings across the country. I find it ironic that the people responsible for this unnecessary violence identify themselves as “liberals”, when actually, it is the open-minded, so called non-liberals, who tolerate their drivel, and focus on putting factual content out there to stop the violence.
Let us debate objectively. Let the facts prevail. Let us not pit rhetoric against facts and expect rhetoric to win. The people of India, I am sure, will be on the side of facts.
This article first appeared in the print edition on December 28, 2019 under the title “The intolerance of liberals”. The writer is an executive producer and anchor at New India Junction