Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016: Thinking with ethics

Dr L Krishnamangol Singh *

Modern societies have become increasingly participative in many fields of development and development policies. And in critical cases or policies involving political, economic, legal, demographic and other aspects, this (participative role) has become a challenge to the Government (i.e both the Central and State Government). Thus, sometimes, the government is in a dilemma as to whether they have to fulfil the aspirations of the people or follow in their own course of actions.

The situation again becomes increasingly critical when the peoples or peoples’s reputed organisations (CSOs) rejected the authority (i.e the Government of India) and when the authority is under attack for the policies or the laws adopted by them (i.e. the Central Government of India) and which are against the will and wishes of the peoples.

Today, in the context of Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 recently passed by the Lok Sabha in Parliament, it is now clear that everybody wants to exercise his or her freedom of expression about the bill within the framework of Indian Constitution.

Interestingly, peoples, CSOs, political leaders political parties etc want to have a say on it, and they have also impressively said a lot on the severe consequences that the State may face in the event of the implementation of the bill. Even the State Government continues to extend full support to the view of the peoples (i.e. general public) of Manipur, and they have also openly emphasised that the interest of the people of the State will be protected.

In fact, it is difficult to predict the fate of the bill as it is a complicated bill which also needs to be passed in the Rajya Sabha to become an Act. Here, we shall not go into the dettails of the bill and the rationale/merit or otherwise (effects/impacts) of it, which are already known to the public or perhaps to all. Thus in what follows, we shall concentrate on some ethical considerations embodied in the bill.

The first question is : why the foreginers or the migrants want to stay in India ? The answer to this question is very simple. The basic reason is that the illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are subjected to various forms of harrassment or presecution on the ground of religion or caste. There is also report that they are forced for conversion to other religion. Naturally, life is risky for them in these foreign countries. Thus, they want to stay in India, which they claim as their ancestral land (country) or the land in which their ancestors lived/settled.

Now, according to the bill, those who have settled in India for six years or for more than six years will be recognised as Indian citizens. Thus, the ethical value in the bill is that the life of the people of Indian origin from pakistan, Bangladesh and Afganistan (i.e. prosecuted minorities like Hindus, Sikhs, Budhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christian) will be protected and saved.This implies that, according to the central government, there is the need for passing the bill in both Houses of the Parliament.

Now, another question urgently requiring our attention is : whether the C.A.B., 2016 need to be rejected or supported ?

To answer this question, it is further essential to make a critical examination of the role of ethics in development. Again, such an examination will also help in grappling with the current issues of the bill. Thus, without going into the vast aspects on the relationship between ethics and development, we shall now focus on the essential aspects of the ethical values or ethical considerations in development in order to address the current impasse of the CAB.

Here it is interesting to note that, in the past or in early times, Aristotle emphasised the importance of ethics or ethical considerations in promoting a state. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has also pointed out that the ethics- related tradition of the subject of economics goes back at least to Aristotle. In fact, Aristotle sought to achieve the goal of “common promotion of a good quality of life”.Thus the state is above the man and it is for the welfare of the people or welfare of all citizens.

He also believed in the existence of the state for the whole system of the society. Thus, according to Aristotle, no individual can destroy the state and he believes in the constitution of ideal state (i.e. the state that provides the need the needs of the people). However, he could not abolish the institution of slavery. Here it can be pointed out that although there Aristotle emphasised the role of state in promoting the principles of good life of all the people or citizens, he was against the communist elements of Plato’s ideal state.

In fact, Aristotle links politics with economics and ethics. Thus he emphasised that the political role of the state needs to focus on promoting economic and ethical values within the whole society or polity. It can also be pointed out that politics legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from and that the end of this science must include those of others so that the end must be the good for many.

Today, there are a large body of literature dealing with ethics or ethical values in the society in examining the various literature, it is found that the term “ethics” relates to the theory of morality. And the philosophical conception of morality deals with a set of values, standard behaviour and personal traits. In fact, in maintaining ethical values in the society, it is essential to follow the prinicples of morality and standard behaviour. This implies that it is essential to set on consider the ehtical cosiderations or moral considerations in the society. As Sen has rightly pointed out, welfare economics (dealing with welfare state) has also focused.

On promoting ethics or ethical values in the society. And this vow accepted in the study of development economics. In fact, there should not be conflict between moral consiousness and ethics in the society and development. There should also be not conflict between idealism and morality in order to promote social development. Infact, there should not be conflict in the material aspect of social life. Thus, according to Marx, historical materalism was a great achievement in scientific thinking on social development.

In this context, it can be pointed out that there may arise crisis of morality and ethics in modern societies. There should also be not conflict between or among different groups at differet level this is perhaps due to the several factors such as low rate of economic growth and per capita income, lack of employement opportunities emergence of poverty, inequality of income and/the economic inequality, relatively lowers rates of social parameters etc.

There is now the emergence of global extremism across many countries threatning for creating panic and killing many people in their different countries. Thus there is need for strong comitment of all nations in the world for promoting global political economy or promoting political economy of global development need to take care of the development or globalisation. In fact, globalisation and development need to take care of the development needs of the general mass of the population/peoples including the weaker sections of the society.

In the context of the northeast or northeastern states including Manipur, it is very difficult to give comment on the case of Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 recently passed in parliament. It is also highly sensitive and risky on the part of any person who speaks against the movement. However, it can be firmly concluded that high moral standards and ethics are necessary to uphold the principles or functioning of the democracy in the country including Manipur.

Thus, to save the society of Manipur, there/is the urgent need to adopt legislative measures for applying the principle or policy of the creation of political spaces in the rest of country, without affecting the State of Manipur. In fact, the CAB, 2016 requires further thinking debate and the bill can also provide new lease of life to those Indian origins of the said religious communities who are subjected to religious persecution and other forms of harassment in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afganistan.

The history of the settlement of these communities in the said three countries is well known and will not be repeated here. What is more important is that there is the need for identifying or providing the political spaces (i.e. the areas/the New states/Union Territories that can be recognised by the centre) with the consent of the State Governments (excluding Manipur) in order to promote harmony and development among all sections of the societies in the country. As Keynes states, “Indeed, the world is ruled by little else”.

* Dr L Krishnamangol Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an economist, researcher and author, Imphal.
This article was webcasted on February 05, 2019.

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