Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan can now breath a fresh air of life

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday night passed, by 125-99 majority, the landmark Citizenship Amendment Bill clearing the path for giving citizenship to Hindus and five other minorities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Bill will become law once the President gives his assent.

Now that the acrimonious debates are over, one should understand the implications of this new law.

Lakhs of minorities who have come from these three neighbouring countries to take refuge in India, are hiding from the arms of law. They used to hide their identities lest they could be sent back to their countries of origin. These people will finally breathe an air of relief. They can now come out in the open, disclose their identities and apply for Indian citizenship. Finally, people who were forced to take refuge from religious persecution can now live a new life.

Imagine the level of fear in the minds of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis who were forced to take refuge in India due to religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.

Their womenfolk used to constantly live in fear, lest they could be subjected to sexual assault, kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam. These refugees, being stateless, were deprived of the benefits of education, jobs and right to vote since they had not been granted Indian citizenship. This new law, brought in humanitarian interest, will grant them citizenship so that they can lead a life of freedom, free from intimidation on grounds of religion.

People of Assam have nothing to fear from this Bill as it will not affect the demography, culture, language and job situation there. Similarly, people in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have nothing to fear from the Bill, as the inner line permit system is there to protect the local people from entry of outsiders.

Home Minister Amit Shah has pointed out one important aspect, that this Bill is for granting citizenship, and not for revoking citizenship. Muslims living in India have nothing to fear from this Bill. This law is not going to affect their lives, education, jobs or citizenship is any way. Muslims should not listen to falsehood and rumours being circulated by vested interest groups.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed and army has been called out in Guwahati and Dibrugarh of Assam, after protests against CAB turned violent. Internet has been suspended in most parts of Assam and Tripura. The situation is truly a matter of serious concern. The Centre, in close coordination with the state governments, must try to dispel fear from the minds of people of Assam and other North Eastern states.

One can understand that the fear has emanated mainly because of NRC (National Register of Citizens) that has been introduced in Assam. Both the issues are completely different. The NRC is meant for identifying migrants who have entered India illegally, while the CAB is meant for granting citizenship to minorities from Islamic states like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have taken refuge in India.

The CAB is not going to affect the jobs of Assamese in any manner. The Centre should reach out to Assamese students and youths and dispel all apprehensions. Simultaneously, rumour mongers must be taken to task.

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Centre must counter falsehood with truth in North-east over CAB issue

akb0810Violence raged in Assam and Tripura on Tuesday during protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill. Traders were attacked and shops were set ablaze in two districts of Tripura, while there was widespread violence on the streets of Guwahati, the nerve centre of North-East.

There were incidents of stone throwing and arson, and police had to use teargas to quell mobs. Internet services were suspended for 48 hours in Tripura to stop baseless rumours from circulating. At least 1,000 people were detained in Assam.

People in Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are protesting against CAB, but the fact is that this Bill will have no effect on these two states. Most of the states are protected under Inner Line Permit and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. This schedule provides for special protection to tribals residing in these states. It also covers Meghalaya and Mizoram. There cannot be any demographic change based on CAB in these states.
There is the Tribal Area Autonomous Development Council working in Tripura, only for the benefit and protection of tribals. The Inner Line Permit system is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. This system has been legalized under Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873. The permit allows outsiders to visit these states only for a certain period, they cannot reside there permanently and will have to leave once the permit period is over. Hence, the Citizenship Amendment Bill clearly demarcates these areas as states where the CAB will have no effect.

The problem is in Assam, where local leaders are fanning hatred and arousing fear in the minds of Assamese. It is because of these local leaders that violence is spiralling due to falsehood that is being spread. The Centre should intervene immediately and calm the fears of the people by disseminating the truth to counter falsehood. The sooner the better.

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Citizenship Amendment Bill has nothing to do with Indian Muslims

AKB2610The Lok Sabha, with a huge majority, passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill at midnight after a marathon day-long acrimonious and polarizing debate. Former NDA ally Shiv Sena supported the Bill, while its new allies in Maharashtra, Congress and NCP opposed. The stage is now set for a showdown in Rajya Sabha when the bill is taken up.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill provides for giving citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on grounds of religious persecution with December 31, 2014 as cut-off date.

The Congress and other opposition parties opposed the Bill saying that it goes against the right to equality as enshrined in the Constitution, by keeping out Muslims. It is pertinent to point out that the BJP had promised citizenship to these refugees who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in its election manifesto.

The recurrent theme in the Opposition’s stand was that the bill is meant to target Muslims. Their argument was that if citizenship can be given to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians from the three neighbouring countries, then why not Muslims.

I want to point out that when Pakistan became independent, the proportion of Hindus was nearly 20 per cent. Today it has dwindled to 1.06 per cent due to massive religious persecution, not only of Hindus, but of Christians too. A large number of Hindus were forced to become Muslims under threats and intimidation. The few Hindus that are left in Pakistan are living in a state of fear, and even among them, many of them have fled Pakistan and have taken refuge in India, leaving behind their properties.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are Islamic states and Muslims living there do not face religious persecution because they form the majority community. Only non-Muslims come to India from these countries because of religious persecution. In India, being foreigners, they are subject to constant harassment from the police. They are practically stateless and do not have any legal rights.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is meant to provide Indian citizenship to these persecuted people. To say that this bill is anti-Muslim will be a travesty of truth. This bill will not affect Indian Muslims in any manner.

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Hyderabad encounter must serve as a warning to lawmakers, a lesson for judiciary

akb0712 Eight days after the gang rape and murder of a veterinary lady doctor in Hyderabad, four men suspected of committing the heinous crime were shot dead in an encounter by police on Friday morning near the same spot where the crime was committed.

Police had taken the four suspects for “reconstruction of crime”, when, according to police, the suspects snatched two pistols from 10 policemen, but were shot dead in the encounter that followed. Late in the evening, the Telangana High Court directed police to preserve the bodies till December 9, videograph the post mortem and submit the video to the local district judge.

As news spread about the encounter, hundreds of people gathered at the spot, showered flowers on policemen and shouted slogans in support of the police. There were similar scenes of jubilation in several other cities of India. The sister and father of the rape victim said, ‘justice has finally been done’.

Such scenes of jubilation denote one clear point: that people want justice faster, they want that the perpetrators of such heinous crimes are punished at the earliest. For them, it does not matter whether justice is meted out by the court, or the government, or the police. This is a crucial point that must be noted by both law makers and law enforcers.

It is heartening to note that most of the politicians have now begun to understand the mood and pulse of the nation. Most of the women MPs in Parliament welcomed the encounter. BJP MP Locket Chatterjee even said, “instead of giving food to rapists inside jails, there should be a law so that such accused are shot dead in encounters. When such encounters happen, there will be fear in the minds of rapists.”

The work of the police is to control crime, collect evidences of crime and provide justice to victims. It is the duty of courts to dispense justice. On Friday morning, if the suspects had fled with the policemen’s pistols, imagine the amount of anger that the people would have directed towards the police.

The support that the Hyderabad police got for the Friday encounter can be summed up from an incident narrated by noted public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam. He said, a convict in the gangrape and murder case of a woman in Pune was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court, his mercy petition was rejected by the President, and yet, for two years the convict was not hanged. Ultimately, the death sentence was commuted to life sentence. There are dozens of similar cases.

Let me give one fact. After the stringent anti-rape legislation was enacted after the infamous Nirbhaya case in Delhi, nearly four lakh rape cases were reported across India. In some of the cases, justice was meted out, but most of the rape cases are still pending in courts.

Since dispensing justice takes up a lot of time, people’s confidence in judiciary begins to wane. In such a situation, the common public hails those individuals and groups that dispense instant justice and give a lesson to such perpetrators. This is what exactly happened in Hyderabad on Friday morning.

The nationwide jubilation over the encounter should serve as a warning to lawmakers: that people are fast losing their patience for justice. It should act as a lesson for law enforcers. If we do not wake up in time, it will be too late.

If we have to control crimes, instill fear in the minds of criminals and ensure safety for our daughters, we have to speed up the pace of judicial process. Let justice be dispensed faster, and the criminals be punished at the earliest. There must be no escape route in the form of mercy petitions.

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Strong law enforcement and political will can stop gruesome crimes against women

akb0612 In the Uttar Pradesh town of Unnao, on Thursday morning, five men, including two alleged rapists, stabbed a 23-year-old girl repeatedly, poured petrol and set her on fire in one of the several horrific crimes in recent times.

The girl had been gang raped on December 12, 2018, and she was on her way to take a train to Rae Bareli to meet her lawyers when the rapists pounced on her. One of the rapists who attacked her, Shivam Trivedi, was released on bail by the Allahabad high court a few days ago.

As national outrage swept the nation, the rape survivor was brought to Lucknow, and from there to Delhi in an air ambulance. She had suffered 90 per cent burns, as she ran in a ball of flames, screaming for help, when an eyewitness rang up the police.

This Unnao incident occurred close on the heels of the infamous incident in Hyderabad, when a lady veterinary doctor was gang raped and then burnt to death by four men causing nationwide outrage. All the four accused were arrested, and on Friday morning, they were killed in an encounter with Hyderabad police, according to latest reports.

The Unnao girl is now battling for her life in Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital. She had filed a rape complaint against the main accused, Shivam Trivedi. The local police took her complaint but ultimately filed an FIR on March 4 this year, after a Rae Bareli court’s order. The main accused Shivam surrendered in court on September 19, and on November 25, he got bail from the Allahabad High Court. The horrific act was perpetrated ten days later, on December 5.

I am narrating the details only to show the glaring lapses in our law enforcement system. This horrific act could have been easily avoided. The rape survivor should have been provided police security because the rapists were out on bail. Clearly they were out to take revenge on the rape survivor. But the system chose to keep its eyes shut.

Politicians of different hues, while condemning the incident, blamed their political rivals. Some blamed the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, some others took the opportunity to blame our PM, and one BJP minister in UP went to the extent to say that even ‘Ram Rajya’ was not 100 per cent crime free.

Until and unless the entire political spectrum, the bureaucracy, the police and judiciary come on the same page, our daughters will continue to remain insecure. Even if we enact stringent laws providing for death sentence to rapists and set up fast track courts, the situation cannot change unless there is an overall change in our mindset.

We have to overhaul our system, make our law enforcement system strong and change the mindset of our politicians. Only these measures can open up a way to provide safety to our daughters. The Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced that Rs 100 crore from Nirbhaya fund would be spent to set up “women help desks” in each of the police stations, so that the women’s safety concerns can be addressed.

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Social media platforms can play a big role in ensuring women’s safety

akb0210A Parliamentary committee on women empowerment on Wednesday sought a report from micro-blogging site Twitter on how it deals with abusive content and the procedure that is followed to remove objectionable comments from the site.

Top representatives from Twitter India made a presentation before the committee, consisting of women MPs, to apprise them of the action taken by them to tackle cases of ‘cyber-bullying’ and harassment of women. They also informed the women MPs about the latest updates in technology to ensure cyber safety and security of women.

Two central ministries, the Ministry of Women & Child Development and Ministry of Home Affairs, had been in touch with Twitter India on the issue of checking abusive content, particularly against women. The issue of child pornography was also raised in view of growing online abuses faced by children.

Concerns have been expressed in several quarters over lack of control on fake and objectionable information dished out on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Most of the objectionable information are generally found to be fake, dangerous to national security and patently illegal.

To cite an instance, there is a stringent provision in law against disclosure of the name, address, identity and location of rape victims and their family members. After the horrible gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, her name and face were flashed on social media among millions of viewers. Today I read a perturbing news report about nearly 80 lakh searches for videos relating to the gang rape victim on porn sites.

This shows to what dangerous extent there is prevalence of a sick mentality among certain sections of people who have easy access to internet. This also reflects the humongous amount of danger and risks that exist to our daughters in society. In such circumstances, more cooperation is required from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram, which are popular and mostly accessed by people from different sections of society.

If the government and society get adequate cooperation from social media sites, it will herald a new beginning, because there is no gainsaying the fact that social media platforms also perform a great service, conveying the complaints and grievances of common people directly to persons in authority who matter.

There have been umpteen instances of government taking action on such complaints from common people that reach via social media. Such an atmosphere creates social awareness and it would be a great service to society, if the concerns of women’s safety too are addressed by social media service providers in the national interest.

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The curious case about breach in Priyanka Gandhi’s security

akbHome Minister Amit Shah clarified in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that the security breach at Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi’s home last week was an “unlikely coincidence”.

On November 25, the family members of a district Congress leader from Meerut came in a black-coloured vehicle around the same time when Rahul Gandhi was supposed to come to meet his sister in a similarly black-coloured vehicle of the same make. The family members were allowed to enter the residence without any physical checks, and they went straight to Priyanka for a selfie.

“The car got in without security checks. This kind of coincidence never happens but still we ordered an inquiry and suspended three officers who were there. We do not want even a .001 per cent chance,” said the Home Minister.

There is no doubt that the manner in which the vehicle was allowed to enter Priyanka’s residence without any physical checks was a serious breach of security and such mistakes must not be allowed to occur again. But, as Amit Shah said, it was the protectee (Priyanka) who had ordered her security officers not to physically check any of her close family members because of which the vehicle was allowed to enter.

Imagine if a group of terrorists had entered the residence without any checks. It is, therefore, necessary for the protectees themselves to adhere to security guidelines, and all visitors, including relatives, must undergo checks. If the security officers had information about Rahul Gandhi visiting her sister, they could have at least checked whether Rahul was inside the vehicle or not. Even a minor error can cause a big incident, and security personnel need to be ever vigilant.

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Rapist killers should not be shown mercy, they must be hanged

akbThere were nationwide protests across India on Monday in which common citizens expressed outrage over the gruesome murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor after gang rape in the city of Hyderabad. Her charred body was found on November 28 morning.

The outrage was reflected in Parliament, when members, cutting across party lines, demanded tough provisions in law to deal with such rapists. Several MPs, including Jaya Bachchan, called for public lynching and castration. Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu suggested that such convicts should not be allowed to file mercy petitions and capital punishment should be meted out in the least possible time.

“What is required is not a new bill, what is required is political will, administrative skill and then change of mindset and then go in for the kill of this social evil”, said the Rajya Sabha chairman. I fully agreed with Naidu’s view that the provision of allowing mercy petitions by such convicts should be discontinued, and if the courts convict such criminals, they should be hanged immediately, without any more hearings, without any delay and without showing any mercy.

We cannot imagine the amount of anger and fear that is the present in the minds of women in India. Wherever I go, women, particularly girls, invariable ask me questions on women’s safety. They ask the simple question: what is the government doing for our safety?

Whenever such horrendous incidents occur, starting from the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi in 2012, there had been outrage, massive street protests, there had been change in laws pertaining to rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Stringent provisions for punishment were made in law on the recommendations of late Justice J. S. Verma, special fast track courts were set up, convictions were given, but when the convicts are yet to be hanged even seven years after the act, then questions and doubts arise in the mind of people, particularly women.

It is then that people demand that harsher laws like those applied in North Korea, UAE, Saudi Arabia and China are enforced in India too. People even demand that the rapists be handed over to lynch mobs, that they should be hanged publicly, that they should be physically castrated. Such demands would not have arisen had the enforcement of law been swifter.

So long as convicts get the leeway through provision of mercy petition, or on grounds of being minor, how can society create fear in the minds of such rapists? It is now the right time to decide that provisions of mercy petitions from such convicts be done away with, and they should be hanged immediately.

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