CAA2019: Hope and Despair of Self-Determination

According to the understanding of Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization (UNPO), the right to self-determination is the right of a people to determine its own destiny. In particular, the principle allows a people to choose its own political status and to determine its own form of economic, cultural and social development. Most importantly, the right to self-determination is recognized in international law as a right of process (not of outcome) belonging to people and not to states or governments. Accordingly, the principle of self-determination is prominently embodied in Article 1 of the charter of the United Nations. In a similar note, in its attempt for the elucidation of the concepts of Rights of people brought together by UNESCO from 1985 to 1991, it concluded in the sense of the Genocide Convention that right to self-determination is an integral part of human rights law which has a universal application. It further recognized the fact that the right to self-determination is a fundamental condition for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedom, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural.

Given this understanding, it is crystal clear that when demands of self-determination are asserted by oppressed nationalities/identities, these demands are not simply demands for political independence from an oppressive state, but these demands are the fundamental grounds on which the very idea of human rights gets established. And any state does not possess the moral and legal right to persecute, annihilate, suppress such demands – as it is beyond the reach of governments and belong to the category of the Universal.

But the reality is otherwise. Even if for a moment we keep aside the fresh universal humiliation of Kashmiri peoples demand of self-determination, we still have other, less heard about, mostly ignored state sponsored persecution of people and their right to self-determination by the Brahmanical Indian state.

One such marginalized story is from Assam and its demand for self-determination which again has been gaining fresh momentum in and through the ‘Brahmanical’ Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

The Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA)

CAA is not simply a brainchild of BJP PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah, which the duo prepared and projected as a savior of human rights bill to save religiously persecuted Hindus in neighboring Islamic nations. The idea that Hindus possess exclusive rights over citizenship in India has been the foundational and fundamental principle of the RSS, since its inception in 1925. And RSS was (is) smart enough to perceive a primordial sense of civilizational polarization in the name of religion which has been happening in the so called civilized world, forever. To the worldview of RSS, the world is fundamentally occupied by Christians and Muslims, which means that both Christians and Muslims have enough of the world where they possess their exclusive right over citizenship. Hindus, if perceived from the world civilizational location, are minority and they only have India where they can exercise their precious exclusive right over Indian citizenship.

Taking this illusory understanding of RSS a step further, the BJP Shah/Modi duo gave this civilizational polarization a new turn. Ever since 9/11 happened in USA and ever since the war on terror was declared on Muslims by Christian nations, the medieval barbaric war of religions has gained modern momentum. Now, the distinction was very clear. On one side, there stands a civilized, secular, democratic, Christian nations and on the other side stands the barbaric, authoritarian, orthodox Islamic nations. So, the problem faced by the Modi/Shah duo and BJP was that how to enter into this glorious civilizational war with Hindu Brahmanical virility? It was not that difficult. The last 70 years of existence of the Indian nation has done enough and everything to make sure that Muslims in India remain otherized. Further, RSS has been successful enough to convince the Hindu conscience that Muslims have been the root cause of degradation & degeneration of the great Hindu nation named India. BJP therefore did not have to put much effort to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill. It is based on a simple idea that Hindus must be provided with state sponsored due process across the world so that each and every Hindus can attain citizenship of India, finally making sure that Brahmanical Hindus and upper caste Hindu males possess the eternal right to rule India forever. Thus CAB was brought in 2016 and was also passed in the Loksabha.

But in their simple formula to formally establish Hindu Rashtra in India by being part of a world civilizational polarization through religions, the Modi/Shah duo led BJP missed or willingly ignored the insignificant demand for self-determination by the people of Assam. And the role of merely 3 crores population of Assam in this enormous battle of religions can’t be ignored or stepped aside due to its insignificance. In fact, what RSS/BJP and the Hindu conscience perceives as insignificant has turned out to be the fundamental hurdle in clearing the road for a Hindu Rashtra. As a result, CAB could not be materialized in 2016 and it was made into an act in 2019, which aims to deal with the question of Assam’s aspiration to self-determination by including a fresh section in the revised 2019 bill, which states that –

6B. (4). Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the sixth schedule to the Constitution and covered under ‘The Inner Line’ notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier regulation, 1873.

And this is the solution by means of which RSS/BJP crushes the fundamental human rights of people of Assam, who has been fighting a lesser known battle ever since it became a part of the Brahmanical Indian state. This battle has been against the practical threat of becoming immigrants, strangers, homeless, oppressed in one’s own land. For instance, in Tripura in the short span of 100 years, Tripuri identity has been systematically erased, otherized, marginalized by overloading Tripura with caste Hindu Bengali identity first by the British colonial state and then by the Brahmanical Indian state.

It is in this context, to preserve a marginalized identity, to preserve a marginalized language, to preserve socio-economic, political and cultural rights, CAA is needed to be scrapped totally.

Otherwise, the collective humiliation of people’s emotions by BJP government is going to boost the demand of self-determination, not only in Assam but also across the North eastern states, where the question of stateless and nationality has remained an unfinished project.


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Nirban Ray Written by:

Nirban is from Assam and is PhD scholar at JNU

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