The Citizenship Amendment Act And Secularism: A Naga Perspective

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The preamble of the Constitution of India provides that we the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens: justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Secularism is the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions. Secularism also means no discrimination against anybody in the name of religion. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark judgment in KesavanandaBharatiSripadagalvaru and others Vs State of Kerala and another, 1973(4) SCC 225, had evolved the basic structure doctrine to protect core constitutional values like fundamental rights, secularism etc. Article 25 of the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
The controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, contains amendments to five major grounds mentioned in the Citizenship Act, 1955 (CAA). The CAA aims to provide Indian Citizenship to six minority communities- Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan where they faced religious prosecution. It is important to know that various studies had shown that minority Muslim sects had faced prosecutions in the aforesaid countries but the Muslims are excluded from CAA.
There is an insertion of a new Section 6B in the CAA which mentions four specifics. The final specification describes that “nothing” in this section “shall apply to tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and the areas covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.” The inner line has been recently extended to Dimapur district in Nagaland. The central government as well as the state government had been strongly contending that Nagaland is protected from CAA in view of Article 371 (A) and the Regulation of 1873.
The Naga people since time immemorial has been most secular. The respect for all peoples and religions without any discrimination is the core value of the Naga way of life. The people of Nagaland are predominantly Christians. As true believers of Lord Jesus Christ, we love and uphold all communities irrespective of caste, creed and religions etc. This basic value is protected under Article 371 (A) (1) (a) (i): Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, no Act of Parliament in respect of religious and social practices of the Nagas, shall apply to the state of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.It shall be most unreasonable and illogical to take shelter under Article 371 (A) to justify the enactment of CAA, when it is discriminatory against a particular religion. The Constitutional protection guaranteed under Article 371 (A) should not be misused as a license to disturb the basic structure of the Constitution as guaranteed under the preamble and specially when Article 371 (A) have no relation to Indian citizenship. The Holy Bible commands all the believers in Mark Chapter 12 Verse 31 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Taka Masa Ao
Senior Advocate & EX-MLA

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