Whether the CAA or NRC is implemented or not in India, Bangladesh – which currently houses 1.2 million Rohingyas – cannot afford another influx
In recent weeks, India was rocked by massive protests and violence against the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists and Christians from neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but excludes Muslims.
Protesters fear that the Muslim citizens of India will be targeted by officials, and many will be rendered stateless by the CAA, in combination with the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Also, the CAA will make many people stateless, and this includes Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, Rohingyas from Myanmar, and Buddhist refugees from Tibet as the citizens of these countries are also excluded from the list.
Though the movement against the CAA initially started in Assam after the introduction of the bill, later, protests against the CAA and NRC erupted in Northeast India, and subsequently spread to the major cities of India.
Till now, eight Indian states and two union territories have declared that they will not implement the CAA.
The states of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh – all ruled by the opposition of BJP, declared of not implementing either the NRC or CAA, while the state of Punjab and the union territories of Delhi and Puducherry have refused to implement the act and only expressed disapproval of the NRC.
Indian opposition parties also raised their voices regarding the CAA and NRC issue.
Before this issue, the opposition parties of India were merely a group of people that only heard and saw, but stayed quiet in the face of oppression.
India's main opposition parties on January 13 met to devise a joint strategy against the controversial new citizenship law which had brought "unprecedented turmoil" to the country.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen also called for unity to stop the implementation of the CAA. In an event in Kolkata, he said, "If there is no unity, protests won't work. For protests to take place, unity is necessary. But I don't believe that people should stop protesting due to lack of unity. That is not desirable.
"Unity is important if the protest is for a proper cause. But if unity is not there, it doesn't mean that we will stop protesting."
Amartya earlier said that the amended law violates the provision of the Constitution of India.
Not limited to only meetings, the Kerala state government has also filed a petition against the CAA in the supreme court of India, challenging the Union government.
The petition states that the CAA violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India, right to life under Article 21 and freedom to practice religion under Article 25.
It argues that the CAA is discriminatory because it covers only a class of minorities from a class of countries sharing borders with India, and to which and from there have been trans-border migration.
Prior to Kerala state government's petition, the Supreme Court of India already heard around 60 petitions challenging the law.
The court primarily declined to stay the contentious law but told the government to respond to petitions that have attacked the amended Citizenship Act on grounds that it violates the Constitution. It decided to hear the case next on January 22.
Modi however, amid all the protest, blamed the opposition for inciting protests.
"Questions regarding this [CAA] have been slowly implanted in the minds of the youths by people. The youths are, by and large, alert. But there are some who have fallen prey to these misconceptions and rumours," said the Indian prime minister in Kolkata on Sunday.
Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah also blamed the Congress for the crisis. "I am saying it loudly. You Congress leaders, listen carefully. Oppose it as much as you can … Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian refugees from Pakistan have as much right over India as you and I have."
Both of these statements show that the ruling party and the premier have no intention to stop the implementation of the CAA.
Dr Amena Mohsin, Professor of International Relations Department, Dhaka University said, "Seeing the current situation, it does not seem like the Indian government can implement the CAA right now.
"Some of the state governments declared that they will not implement the act in their states and the union government cannot impose their decision just by showing court order."
She further said, "There is also a possibility that communal violence may break out if this law is implemented. And the violence might even cross the borders of India and spread to its neighbouring countries as well."
Bangladesh, being the closest neighbour to India might also face an influx, as illegal border crossing has already increased. According to the Border Guard Bangladesh, the force in 2019 arrested 1,002 people – 606 men, 258 women, 135 children and three brokers – with 445 of them coming in November and December alone.
This data shows that people are already fleeing India in fear of ending up in detention centres.
In Assam, by now over 1,000 so-called "foreigners" have already been thrown into jails and detention centres, and more new detention centres are now being built in Assam where these "stateless" people may be locked up indefinitely.
However, at some point in the future, these "illegal" people might be "pushed back" across the border to Bangladesh.
Whether the CAA or NRC is implemented or not in India, Bangladesh – which currently houses 1.2 million Rohingyas – cannot afford another influx.
Thus without waiting for the reports to come from New Delhi, Bangladesh should now raise concerns about the people that might get excluded from the list and solve the matter bilaterally before the situation worsens even further.