Nobel Laureate and economist Amartya Sen has said the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) purpose of implementing Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) is to reduce the role of minorities in India and make them less important.
In an interview with PTI, Sen also said that India would some day regret the neglect of the minorities like Muslims.
He said, "As far as I can see, one of BJP's purposes [by implementing CAA] is to reduce the role of minorities and make them less important and, in a direct and indirect way, increase the role of the Hindu majoritarian forces in India and to that extent undermine the minorities."
The CAA was introduced by the Narendra Modi-led Union government in 2019. The law paves way to grant Indian citizenship to certain classes of illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries. It has been criticised for being discriminatory as this does not include Muslims. Together with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the CAA is criticised for being a tool to marginalise Indian Muslims.
The Supreme Court Observer explains: "The CAA makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship if they (a) belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community and (b) are from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. It only applies to migrants who entered India on or before 31 December, 2014.
"Viewed in combination with the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NCR), the CAA has the potential to deprive many Muslims residing in India of full citizenship. The proposed NRC will likely deprive many persons, both Muslim and non-Muslim, residing in India of citizenship. While excluded non-Muslims will have the opportunity to regain citizenship via the CAA, this will not be the case for Muslims. Hence, the NRC in combination with the CAA may disproportionately exclude Muslim residents of India."
Though the CAA has been made into a law, relevant rules have not been framed. The law is therefore not operational and has not been implemented.
Sen told PTI, "It's very unfortunate for a country like India which is meant to be a secular, egalitarian nation and it has also been used for particularly unfortunate discriminatory action like declaring minorities, whether from Bangladesh or West Bengal, as foreign rather than indigenous. This is pretty demeaning and I would regard that to be a bad move basically."
Asked whether the BJP-led central government has improved in its performance in these years, Sen replied in the negative.
He said, "I do not think it has improved. I think what India needs is a recognition that every Indian has certain rights and they come from their membership of the nation. That was after all what Mahatma Gandhi tried to do."
Sen said Mahatma Gandhi did not try to cultivate one group against another and that despite being "strongly committed Hindu in a religious way", he was willing to give Muslims much more standing than they had at that time before Independence.
Sen said, "I think the move was for a fair culture, a just polity, and a good sense of national identity. Someday India will regret the neglect of the minorities like Muslims."
(With PTI inputs)