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Social Stratification, Constitution Of India And Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019


Sociologists use the term social stratification to describe the system of social standing. Social stratification refers to a society's categorization of its people into rankings of socioeconomic tiers based on factors like wealth, income, race, education, and power. Social stratification is the allocation of individuals and groups according to various social hierarchies of differing power, status, or prestige.1

Society's layers are made of people, and society's resources are distributed unevenly throughout the layers. The people who have more resources represent the top layer of the social structure of stratification. Other groups of people, with progressively fewer and fewer resources, represent the lower layers of our society.

Social stratification is important due to the following reasons:
  1. To understand Social Inequality
  2. to understand how 'Social Order' is maintained

Citizenship Amendment Act,2019:

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA Bill) was first introduced in 2016 by the Lok Sabha by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. This bill was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, whose report was later submitted on January 7, 2019. The Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed on January 8, 2019, by the Lok Sabha which lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. This Bill was introduced again on 9 December 2019 by the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah in the 17th Lok Sabha and was later passed on 10 December 2019. The Rajya Sabha also passed the bill on 11th December.

The CAA was passed to provide Indian citizenship to the illegal migrants who entered India on or before 31st December 2014. The Act was passed for migrants of six different religions such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Any individual will be considered eligible for this act if he/she has resided in India during the last 12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years. For the specified class of illegal migrants, the number of years of residency has been relaxed from 11 years to five years.2
In this paper, we will see try to understand the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 through the constitution and social stratification.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 Is Unconstitutional:

The CAA violates the constitutional rights of people and is outside the power of such legislature as defined in the Constitution. The reason why the unconstitutionality of the CAA is so egregious and far-reaching is that it represents a fundamental break from the fundamental principles of the Constitution, namely citizenship being open to all without discrimination on the basis of religion, language, race, ethnicity, or gender.

The CAA is not only unconstitutional for violating the text of the Constitution but also for going essentially against one of the basic features of the Constitution. As per the government's own numbers, only about 31,313 people, according to what the Intelligence Bureau submitted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee � those who fulfill the above four criteria and have stated, when they first entered India, that they had come here to escape religious persecution, will benefit from this legislation. The purpose of the law is to protect members of minority communities of the three countries mentioned who have suffered religious persecution there.

At least, that's what the government says it is, but the law's kindness on this front is miserable. It assumes, using a colonial framework, that Muslims are one large monolith and that religious persecution between dominant and less dominant sects of Islam is not worth its consideration. This is not a theoretical exercise � Ahmadiyyas and Shias are at the receiving end of majoritarian violence in Pakistan and atheists in Bangladesh, even though born in Muslim families, are at the receiving end of extremist violence. If the idea is to protect against religious persecution of minorities, there's no answer as to why the protective umbrella of the law leaves them out.

In-State of West Bengal vs Anwar Ali Sarkar 3, Justice S.R. Das states that:
Article 14 does not insist that every piece of legislation must have universal application and it does not take away from the State the power to classify persons for the purposes of the legislation, but the classification must be rational, and in order to satisfy this test:
  1. the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguished those that are grouped together from others, and
  2. that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act.

The principle is not that any classification will sail � there must be valid bases for such classification and such differences must meet the tenacities of the legislation. On both these grounds, the amendment fails � not only does it select certain illegal migrants on the basis of religion, but it also does so for reasons that have no basis in the law itself. Either a person is persecuted on the basis of religion or they are not. Some illegal migrants are not more equal than others. Sixty-five writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legal validity of the CAA. On this front, the CAA clearly violates Article 14 of the Constitution.

The CAA Leads To An Economic Problem:

Economist Kaushik Basu once remarked:
India is a vibrant, secular democracy that was growing at a remarkable annual rate of over 8% until a few years ago. Today, Hindu fundamentalist groups that discriminate against minorities and women, and that are working to thwart scientific research and higher education, are threatening its gains."

Not just Basu, others have also found a definitive link between the growth of religious fundamentalism and economic development.

In July 2018, researchers from the Universities of Bristol (UK) and Tennessee (US) published a study, 'Religious change preceded economic change in the 20th century', clearly establishing the causal relationship between secularism and economic growth. It found that the secularisation graph "leads" the economic development graph in 109 countries it studied, including the UK, Nigeria, Chile, and Philippines.

There is already an economic problem in the country. If tens of thousands leave Bangladesh and start staying legally in Assam and North East, the pressure will first show in the principal economic resource land.

Also, since these will be legitimate citizens, there will also be more people joining the queue of job hopefuls that can potentially lower opportunities for the indigenous and the locals.

The Citizenship Amendment Act Paves Way For A Majoritarian State:

Internationally, the majoritarian nationalism of the nation-state is widely perceived as bad nationalism for two reasons. First, majoritarian nationalism asserts the superiority of the majority community and its dominance over minorities. A state practicing majoritarian nationalism ends up alienating several sections of the population and fomenting strife because it fails to uphold individual rights, the legal equality between all citizens, and the intellectual and political choices that are innate in the democratic civic nation.

The CAA thrives to create a monolithic constitution. Political, intellectual, and cultural identities are not aligned in any country and the ethnic or cultural nation is politically divisible. In India, the government professes to be a Hindutva nationalist. The government's amended citizenship legislation and suggestions of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC)�like the registry published in Assam in October�have created massive apprehensions over India's future as a secular state.

The CAA-NRC is the government's biggest electoral weapon in states such as Assam and West Bengal which go to polls in 2021. In both these states, the BJP seeks to consolidate Hindu voters, especially among Bengali-speaking Hindus concerned about citizenship status after the Assam NRC, and the project itself as a party that protects the majority against Muslim outsiders. With a significant Muslim population in both states, the BJP's attempt at polarization through the CAA-NRC may enable further schisms among voters on religious lines thereby enabling the party to play to its strengths of communal politics.

The CAA Is Anti-Secular In Nature:

Preamble says
We the people of India, having solemnly resolves to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic, and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all;
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of nation

CAA slaughters the preamble in which secularism and equality have been mentioned. This act divides the nation and the people of the nation on the basis of religion. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 violates every known principle of equality and equal treatment and damages and destroys the Constitution's basic feature of secularism.

The act breaches the founding concepts of the Republic of India. In 1947, this nation was founded on certain absolute truths. Chief among them was that the land of India had always been -and would always be - home to all faiths, welcoming diversity and diversity and excluding none.

India was instituted on the idea of 'civic nationalism' �that allegiance to the Constitution and its values was what it meant to be 'Indian' � and the rejection of the 'two-nation theory' that triggered Partition. The act tears these foundational principles as it places some faiths and religions as implicitly more worthy of protection than others. Indian secularism does not license religion and conviction to determine an individual's civil status in the polity (through citizenship) and it certainly does not permit that to be done in an unfair and prejudiced manner.

CAA And NRC Combined Threaten The Islamic Community:

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, when viewed in amalgamation with the government's intention to compile a National Register of Citizens (NRC) for India, will create a situation where being a Muslim and document-less could deprive one of the citizenship rights. The CAA welcomes Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, and Jains who arrived in India before 31 December 2014 to escape religious persecution as minorities in neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

All three happen to be Islamic states. The CAA, however, does not include Muslim minorities like the Rohingyas of Myanmar (with whom we share a border). Let's move to the NRC exercise. It is not yet clear what sort of documentary proof would be required to prove citizenship because the exercise would be conducted by state governments, and perhaps each state government could have its own specifications. Let's assume that one of the documents is a birth certificate.

UNICEF figures from 2012 account that about 40% of urban births and 65% of rural births are not registered in India. A similar picture is probably the case for the older generations. In Assam, reports suggest that large numbers (about 19 lakh people) did not possess the necessary documents in the recently conducted NRC exercise under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Detention camps have already been set up in Assam.

We want to root out illegal infiltrators coming from Bangladesh and other neighbors to other parts of India
, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already said while defending their intention to carry out the NRC. He has also made public threats that those who cannot produce the necessary documentation will be herded into detention camps.

When seen in tandem with the NRC exercise, the CAA is not simply an amendment to provide safe haven to persecuted minorities, none of whom are Muslim. It would be more precise to say that the CAA is pro-non-Muslim persecuted minorities. The NRC exercise is being conducted to find illegal migrants from neighboring countries particularly Pakistan and Bangladesh (which also has the third-largest Hindu population after India and Nepal). A possible impact of the NRC-CAA combine would be the following: A document-less Muslim in India who may have lived here for centuries may be more likely to be branded an illegal migrant, but

without recourse to the CAA that a Hindu Bangladeshi migrant would have. Wouldn't such an awful possibility create fear in the hearts of Indian Muslims?
More crucially, the CAA-NRC combine inflicts a deep wound on the constitution's fabric. Even if the NRC exercise doesn't happen, the damage would have been done to several fundamental rights including the right to practice religion.

Through this paper, we have observed how the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is related to social stratification and is also unconstitutional in nature. Through various different perspectives, we have observed that CAA also opens up the possibility of future infringement on rights of citizens belonging to Islam through the future introduction of NRC as indicated by the present government through our home minister. In India, the majority community holds most of the political power and CAA is a potential tool to further their own ideology while ignoring the problems of the minorities.

The CAA has become a tool for the development of a majoritarian state ruled by a government that holds a monolithic ideology. This act is against the fundamental principles of secularism and equality outlined in the constitution.

Therefore, I strongly oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act,2019 and feel it poses a threat to the very essence of a secular state. End-Notes:
  1. Anderson 2011
  2. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019
  3. 1952 AIR 75, SCR 284

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