Around 120 Indians living in Finland took part in simultaneous demonstrations according to the protest organizers, who have requested to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.
Upon the group's initial announcement that they were organizing protests against the bill, which they describe as "blatantly unconstitutional and discriminatory", the Indian Embassy of Finland issued a response to this paper, stating that "reports that the CAA will lead to the deportation of foreigners are factually incorrect".
Demonstrations in Helsinki began in front of Oodi and ended on Senate Square, where protestors chanted slogans, handed out flyers, and read out parts of the Indian Constitution.
They reiterated their hopes that the CAA would not be implemented and thanked the EU Parliament for their upcoming resolution against the CAA, which will be debated later this week.
In addition, they also issued a point-by-point response to the Indian Embassy's previous response, which can be read in full below. The blue text paragraphs are sections from the Embassy of India's original statement, while the black text is the response of "Indians Against CAA, Finland":
"The Embassy has attempted to frame the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) as a humanitarian response to offer expedited relief to persecuted refugees residing in India without citizenship. But, this humanitarian gesture is offered only to some religions and some countries. People of all religions and nationalities can be persecuted. A truly humanitarian gesture would treat all human beings equally and not find reasons to differentiate between religions, nations, and other identities. Unbiasedness and equal treatment is especially important in lawmaking. CAA (2019) is an insufficient and biased humanitarian gesture, and it is particularly distressing because India has a proud tradition of sheltering all persecuted people from all nations, irrespective of their religion, race, gender, language, or caste.
India is a parliamentary democracy and a secular nation that was specifically not created on the basis of religion. However, CAA (2019) is rooted in religion-based discrimination. We certainly do not argue that persecuted minorities belonging to some religions should not be given protection and citizenship. Instead, we urge for an inclusive law that considers our Constitution’s founding principles of equality, fairness, and justice, that would accept all persecuted minorities, irrespective of religious identity and country.
Lastly, the CAA cannot be considered alone, but rather through the prism of National Population Register and National Register of Citizens (NRC), in the chronology explained by the Hon. Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah in Parliament during the parliamentary debate for introducing Citizenship Amendment Bill. Individuals who were deemed as “doubtful citizens” through Assam’s NRC have been already sent to 6 detention centres, and 28 such individuals have died in these detention centres. Although the Hon. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has publicly said that there are no detention centres in the country; on the other hand, several media sources have reported that more detention centres are being built throughout the country.
History shows us what happens when the state pursues religion-based exclusion: the murder of Jews in Nazi Germany and more recently, of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, began with laws that rendered them stateless. We urge the Government of India to return to the path of equality and justice.
A point-by-point response is included below.
Embassy of India in Finland responds to protesters arguments
Facts and update about
Amendment to India’s Citizenship Act (1955) National Population Register
India is a parliamentary democracy. All Indian citizens, irrespective of the faith that they profess or the language that they speak, enjoy the same fundamental rights conferred on them by the constitution of India.
India is a parliamentary democracy and a secular nation. Secularism is part and parcel of Indian constitutional morality. The founders of India, who freed our great nation from the British, were committed to a secular state, where all citizens irrespective of religion enjoyed full citizenship. CAA (2019), on the other hand, introduces religion as a criterion for citizenship.
Article 14 of the Constitution states "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India." and not just to Indian citizens.
Government of India amended Citizenship Act (1955) in December 2019 to expedite the process of obtaining Indian citizenship through naturalization by persons belonging to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan - namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians - who have been in India prior to 31 December 2014. For this category of persons only, the stipulated waiting period for naturalization will be reduced from 11 years to five years. Minorities from only these three countries will not be treated as illegal migrants and, provided they meet the criteria contained in the Act, the government will provide certification of registration or certificate of naturalization.
Several constitutional experts have pointed out that this selection of three countries is arbitrary and does not constitute a “reasonable classification.”
The Embassy claims that three countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan—are chosen because
(a) they share a border with India and therefore is a natural place of entry to migrants seeking refuge.
(b) they are religious States, and as a corollary, discriminate against a part of their population that does not adhere to the State religion.
However, these countries do not exhaust the list of countries specified by (a) & (b). Countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan also fulfill these criteria which borders with India or in a neighbouring country (having the minorities of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Hindus and Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims) and the governments are either accused of discriminating against minority religions, preferring one religion over the other, or having a state religion (Vajrayana Buddhism in Bhutan). Thousands of Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka have resided in India for many years after brutal persecution by the Sri Lankan state. Can the Government of India clarify why they do not feature on this list?
Further, this raises a reasonable doubt in the minds of concerned citizens whether these countries were solely chosen because they had a predominantly Muslim population.
Migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (who are also minorities), shall be eligible under the CAA for citizenship after a total residence period of six years under a fast-track mode. CAA does not prevent other foreigners from any other country or belonging to any faith, from applying for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship Act 1955. Thus, with the exception of those covered under the amendment in 2019, all other foreign migrants will also be eligible to apply for Indian citizenship after a total residency period of 12 years, if they fulfill the qualifications laid down in the Citizenship Act 1955.
The CAA explicitly excludes Muslims and other minority refugees (Jews, Bahá'í, atheists) from the list of communities that can seek citizenship by naturalization in India after a stay of 6 years despite having entered the country without valid papers. The normal period for naturalization is 11 years of residence (not 12 as mentioned by the Embassy). But even that
route would be closed off if a Muslim1 refugee entered India or stayed in India without valid papers until December 2014 and they are classified as “illegal immigrant”. Isn’t this a clear instance of religion-based discrimination?
Over the last few years, the Government of India has made multiple regulations that make visa rules easier for only specific communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan. These new regulations – which govern everything from overstaying on a visa to opening bank accounts and buying residential property – appear to go out of their way to exclude Muslims who are citizens of the three countries and are legal residents of India.
Indeed, the modified rules explicitly state that they only apply to people from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities.
Isn’t this a violation of Article 14 of our Indian constitution, since the law is not equal for all individuals residing within the borders of India?
1Or a refugee who is Jew or atheist or belonging to some other unmentioned religion.
CAA has nothing to do with the deportation of any foreigner from India. The deportation process, irrespective of religion or country of origin, is implemented as per existing law - Foreigners Act 1946 and/or the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920. Hence, reports that CAA will lead to the deportation of foreigners are factually incorrect.
It is astonishing that the embassy fails to mention the effect of CAA on the NRC process. The NRC process is already completed in Assam and so it is a reality for 19 lakh people who could not prove their citizenship with complex documentation. The Hon. Home Minister has also repeatedly stated that it will be extended nationwide. The NPR process, a precursor to NRC, has already begun in many Indian states. In such a situation, can the Embassy or Indian Government guarantee that nationwide NRC will not happen?
After NPR and NRC, what will happen to the people who are unable to prove their citizenship and are deemed as ‘doubtful citizens”? Irrespective of religion, they are at the risk of being sent to detention centres. However, CAA (2019) will allow people from only 6 religions to apply for citizenship in fast track mode without any proof. So, these people from 6 religions will get citizenship, whereas the others will be at risk of being sent to detention centres. Thus NRC combined with CAA clearly works as a tool to exclude only the Muslim population who are deemed “doubtful citizens”.
Hence, CAA will clearly lead to discrimination between Indian citizens during the NRC process.
Individuals who were deemed as “doubtful citizens” with Assam’s NRC have been already sent to 6 detention centres. More detention centres are being built across the country, as reported even in international media, with video evidence. At least 28 such “foreigners” have died in these detention centres. Despite all this, the Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has publicly said that there are no detention centers in the country, which naturally leads us to be wary of the government’s intentions.
Also, what will happen to the “illegal foreigners” after the CAA, if they are not deported? Does the Government of India plan to keep them in detention centres indefinitely? Does
Does India has agreements with other countries for the deportation of such individuals? We request an explanation.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh share land boundaries with India. Islam is the state religion in all three countries as per their constitution and law. Minorities from the three countries who have sought shelter in India are refugees of faith and belief; those who fear persecution, or are victims of religious violence. Amended Citizenship Act is intended to deal with particular circumstances in three countries where, historically, persecution or targeted religious violence has compelled these minorities in the specified countries to seek refuge in India.
There is no mention of “religious persecution” in the CAA itself. The definition of “religious minority” used by the Government so far is so narrow to include only minorities in an Islamic country. Other than political agendas, what is the legal reasoning for the same?
Minority religions in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are both under threat of religious persecution. If the intention was to provide refuge to persecuted minorities, why are Ahmadiya Muslims sects from Pakistan, Shia Muslims from Pakistan and Afghanistan, Hazara Muslims from Afghanistan, LGBT individuals and atheists, Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Uighur Muslims and Buddhists from China (which also shares a land border with India), Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka et cetera been excluded from this protection?
CAA does not change the standard naturalization process enshrined in our law in respect of those seeking Indian Citizenship. Nor does it discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity. The process of obtaining citizenship remains open to people of all faiths and from all countries.
The use of religion in defining minorities that are eligible for protection is discriminatory by definition. The CAA provides accelerated avenues to citizenship for persons of 6 faiths of 3 countries specifically. This is positive discrimination. Furthermore, that the CAA does not include persons practicing any other faith, as mentioned above, is negative discrimination. Why is this patently false statement “Nor does it discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity.” being repeated?
Migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who are not persecuted religious groups may also seek citizenship if they so desire. However, such migrants would not be automatically eligible for expedited consideration.
We do not argue that persecuted minorities belonging to some religions should not be given protection and citizenship. We urge for an inclusive law that considers the founding principles of equality, fairness, and justice, that would accept all persecuted minorities, irrespective of religious identity and country, and that would be applied to everyone equally.
Further, if the aim of the government of India is to prevent religious persecution of certain religions, what is the legal reasoning about the CAA applied retrospectively? Why not remove the date entirely and make it indefinite?
The migrants who have sought refuge in India from Bangladesh are, overwhelmingly, persons who earlier faced persecution and abuse on religious grounds in Bangladesh from 1975 to 2008 when there was largely military rule in Bangladesh. During the period of the Mujahedin and Taliban regimes in Afghanistan, religious minorities were deliberately and explicitly victimized on the basis of religion. Pakistan-backed terror groups continue to target minorities in Afghanistan today. In Pakistan, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are targeted and persecuted for speaking out and seeking their rights. Blasphemy laws, which provide for the death sentence, serve as legal justification to prosecute religious minorities through false accusations.
We would like to repeat: There will always be individuals from among the chosen three neighboring countries’ Muslim populations who are persecuted by the ruling sections and orthodoxy on the grounds of sect, gender, belief, sexual orientation, etc and who might need to seek refuge in India. The Taliban has relentlessly persecuted and murdered Ahmadiya, Shia and Hazara Muslims. It has also persecuted people of different sexual orientations. Persons who faced persecution and abuse on religious grounds in Bangladesh also include atheists. The CAA provides no refuge for these persons. Can the Government of India explain why they are not included? Also again, what is the legal reasoning between choosing just three counties?
When India, as a signatory to The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, 2018 (GCM), have internationally agreed to develop an open, transparent and inclusive process for migration in the country, why is a selective accelerated process being offered based on the applicant’s religion?
Rather than selectively offer protection and citizenship to persecuted minorities belonging to certain religions, we urge the government of India to install precise and fair asylum procedures to all persecuted minorities, irrespective of their religious identity or country. Such an inclusive law ought to be based on the constitutional values of equality, fairness, and justice.
The Act ensures that states of the north-east region in India that have inner line permit regime, and tribal areas notified under the sixth schedule of the constitution, are outside the purview of the legislation.
The CAA 2019 attempts to give a one-stop solution to all irregular migration problems, which does not work in the North East nor the rest of India. Not all North East (Meghalaya) is included in the ILP regime.
The act is limited to regularization with retrospective effect i.e. those who are in India prior to 31 December 2014. It is not with prospective effect. Hence there are no grounds to portray this as an effort to exhort fresh migrations of minorities from our neighbours.
Again, why has an arbitrary date of 31 December, 2014, been chosen? Swami Vivekananda said in his famous speech at World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, in 1893, “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth”. Indians, especially those are protesting worldwide, are not against giving refuge/asylum to religiously persecuted persons. In fact, India should maintain this proud tradition of sheltering all persecuted people from all nations, irrespective of their religion, race, gender, language, or caste. Why is the government not providing protection to all persecuted persons under a fair asylum-seeking system? What is the legal reason for providing the same retrospectively only?
Citizenship (Amendment) Act does not take away the citizenship of any Indian citizen, including Muslim citizens. No statute or law passed by parliament, including the CAA, can abridge or take away citizenship status from a national of India. Therefore, any report to the contrary is part of a misinformation campaign.
CAA alone does not take away citizenship. But we have shown that CAA is highly discriminatory and against the ethos of the Constitution as well as a humanitarian society.
But, the CAA cannot be considered alone, but rather through the prism of nationwide NPR and NRC, in the chronology explained by the Hon. Home Minister. NRC takes away the citizenship of Indian residents who cannot prove that they are Indian citizens. CAA will then discriminate by giving citizenship to only some religions groups, thereby playing a part in taking away citizenship.
As part of a parliamentary debate, the Hon. Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah has stated the intentions behind introducing CAA to all Indians and MPs in the Parliament. He has also mentioned NRC in connection with CAA many times. For the Embassy to wilfully disregard this connection is to indulge in blatant obfuscation and misinformation.
To repeat, in the proposed NRC mechanism, a person marked as a “doubtful citizen” in the National Population Register will need to prove their citizenship. However, this will not be easy for marginalized and other sections of the society who would be rendered stateless for want of official documentation of their and their ancestors' birth certificates, voting records et cetera. In such a case such people at the risk of going to detention centres. However, the implementation of CAA will allow only the people form 6 religions to apply for citizenship in fast track mode without any proof. Hence, how is this misinformation?
In Assam, the NRC has been implemented under the orders of the Supreme Court. This system of NRC is now being proposed for the whole of India. Can the embassy clarify that when NRC is implemented as planned, will all stateless citizens get equal treatment regardless of their religion and what role will CAA play at that time?
We believe that when combined with CAA, NRC will clearly work as a tool to exclude the Muslim population of the country. History shows us what happens with religion-based exclusion: what happened with Jews in Nazi Germany and more recently, in Myanmar with Rohingya Muslims who were rendered stateless. If this is not true, we request that the Indian Embassy for Finland and Estonia kindly address this with valid points in order to ease our fears of religion-based exclusion happening in the largest democracy of the world.
The primary objective of the CAA is to provide rights and government services that are available to all Indian citizens, to those stateless persons who have been living in India for decades, and who have entered India to flee religious persecution before 31 December 2014. It is thus a governance issue. The act is retrospective. Those who have come illegally after December 31, 2014, are not eligible.
The Hon. Home Minister of the Government of India Amit Shah has repeatedly stated that NRC will be implemented across India soon. He has also stated on record that non-Muslims who cannot prove citizenship will be given citizenship without being asked to show any documents. Moreover, detention centers already exist and are being planned in many states with the intention of detaining Indian residents who are unable to prove their citizenship.
In such a situation, CAA + NRC appears to not only discriminate against prospective Muslim refugees but also against current Muslim residents who may not be able to prove their
citizenship. This is no idle fear: 19 lakh people in the state of Assam were unable to prove citizenship. Although in many cases, their ancestors had arrived in India well before Independence (1947) or before the Bangladesh War (1971), they were refused inclusion in the National Register of Citizens based on small discrepancies in their paperwork. In a state prone to frequent natural disasters, such as floods, people were asked to prove citizenship when they had no houses or belongings left. This has affected people of all religions, ages, and genders, and there are documented instances of children being sent to detention centers, directly in contravention to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (India’s accession: 11 December 1992).
Again, if the true intention of the Indian government is to support religiously persecuted people, why is it also not prospectively applied? The logic behind accepting migrants living in India based on religion with retrospective effect is not understandable. Is the Indian government undertaking that the religious persecutions against religious minorities in the three neighbouring Muslim countries will be prevented by the Government of India in the future? what is the legal reasoning behind the same?
In summary, the current explanation falls short of giving an accurate clarification by the embassy of India in Finland. We urge the embassy to share our queries with the Government of India and ask for further clarifications on the matter, especially also because OCI cardholders are directly affected by the CAA 2019 and no explanation on its applicability of CAA on OCI Cardholders is given."
The statement is from the “Indians Against CAA, Finland” organisation. Helsinki Times has not investigated this topic independently and is not responsible for the content of the statement. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the newspaper's views.