Dhaka,  Thursday
25 July 2024

Anti-Muslim CAA fuels anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh

Published: 08:32, 14 June 2024

Anti-Muslim CAA fuels anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh

Photo : Messenger

India, the biggest democracy in the world, held its seven-phase general election from April 19. Incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress-led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) were the key players in the elections. The election saw many dramatic events in India’s political sphere. Promises and opposition criticism were being used by political parties as soft weapons to draw voter support. Sadly, religious rhetoric become one of the political cards in the election campaigns. BJP’s decision to implement CAA just before the election is the biggest weapon it has used. It sparked debate across the country. Narendra Modi’s recent remark on India’s Muslim population also created debate.

Amid the volatile situation of Indian Muslims, Bangladesh is seeing a surge in the ‘Boycott India’ campaign, a movement spearheaded by the country’s opposition political parties. The hashtags #IndiaOut and #BoycottIndia gained traction on social media. The campaign was sparked by India’s alleged interference in Bangladesh's 12th general election held on January 7. Nevertheless, it would be an exaggeration to say that the campaign is purely politically motivated. People have long-standing pent-up resentment against India due to various unresolved bilateral issues. Also, government-sponsored communalism and anti-Muslim laws fueled this anger among the people of Bangladesh. CAA is such a law which used by the Indian government as a trump card to win their elections.

The CAA first came to light in 2019 when it was introduced as a draft bill in the Indian Parliament. It immediately sparked controversy across the country and was labeled as a bill contradicting India’s secular constitution. The parliament passed the bill in the same year amid deadly protests across the country. Four years after the law was passed, the Indian government notified the rules for implementing the CAA on March 11. The decision came ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in India.

The Citizenship Amendment Act aims to provide legal citizenship to individuals who have fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan due to religious persecution and arrived in India by December 31, 2014. This act specifically focuses on granting citizenship to those belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, or Christian communities. Individuals practicing these six religions who enter India from these three countries are not required to provide any legal documentation of residence. The Home Ministry has recently introduced a specialised portal for accepting online applications for CAA. To complete the application process, applicants are required to provide their previous country's citizenship document and demonstrate proof of residing in India for a minimum of 5 years.

Due to changes in citizenship laws, individuals belonging to certain religions may face the possibility of losing their citizenship and the associated government benefits. This could potentially impact a significant number of individuals who are currently citizens of India. Despite assurances from Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP leaders that Muslims would not lose their citizenship, there appears to be a contradiction. The Home Minister himself stated that a nationwide NRC would be conducted after the implementation of the CAA.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list of legal citizens that excludes people who can’t prove their legal citizenship. The NRC was introduced in Assam to detect foreigners illegally living in the state. It was conducted in the state in 2019, and 2 million people have been excluded from the final list published in 2021. These 2 million people have been labeled as foreigners and living without citizen facilities. Among them, 54 percent are Hindus, and the rest are Muslims. Ironically, 54 percent of Muslims would be awarded citizenship under the CAA, and the Muslims would still be treated as illegal.

The CAA has caused concern among Bangladeshi citizens and placed the country in an auspicious position in several ways. As it mentioned, the migrated religious minorities of Bangladesh as ‘persecuted minorities,’ it accused Bangladesh of oppressing minorities. As Bangladesh is placed in the same clause as Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh has been compared to the horrors of minority persecution in the two countries, which is unwarranted and unrealistic. Nevertheless, Bangladesh's government should investigate the case of oppression if reported to the Indian authority.

Many Tamils and Rohingyas are living in India who were persecuted by Sri Lanka and Myanmar, respectively. However, the CAA didn’t make them eligible to attain citizenship. By this, India gave indulgence to these two countries and discriminated against persecuted citizens from there.

Another issue arises emerges for Bangladesh, as Muslims would no longer be citizens of India. Contrary to Assam, the CAA and NRC will be implemented in a different direction. By extending citizenship to individuals of six different religions, the NRC would inadvertently exclude Muslims, leaving them without any recourse to maintain their citizenship. In India, Muslims who are marginalised are frequently referred to as outsiders, Bangladeshi, and Rohingya.

India is not a signatory country to the International Refugee Convention, and there is also ambiguity as to what will be done with these foreigners who have lost their citizenship. Consequently, the possibility of a large population who have lost their citizenship entering Bangladesh cannot be completely ruled out. Approximately 1.2 million Rohingya are now living in Bangladesh; neither the people nor the government intends to take on any more burden of a refugee.

India may help alleviate anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh by listening to the people's worries and working more closely with its most reliable partner. If the interests of individuals are not protected, bilateral ties can deteriorate, as seen in the Maldives. People voted for Mohammad Muizzu to elect the president, as his mandate was to end India's dominance over the country. The country has since scrapped several agreements with India and aligned more with China. Hence, India must pay attention to the people's concerns in Bangladesh and abstain from any actions that could instigate communal violence or harm the interests of the people of Bangladesh.

The writer is Assistant Professor and Chairman, Department of Criminology and Police Science, University of Chittagong.