The Citizenship Amendment Act – Sharp Arguments against an Unjust Law

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed into law in December 2019. The law and its accompanying statements seek to provide Indian citizenship to people from six religious minorities (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs and Christians) from three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh) on the basis that, having been subjected to religious persecution, they entered India before 31 December 2014. The exclusion of other communities (in particular, Muslims from the same three countries, or Tamils from Sri Lanka) has triggered widespread public opposition to the law, including the following arguments: (a) it is discriminatory against Muslims; (b) it is violative of human rights by denying access to citizenship solely based on religious identity; (c) it violates the secular nature of the Constitution of India.

In order to execute its intent, the CAA has amended the Citizenship Act of 1955. In addition, to give it full effect, connected amendments have been made to the Passport Act of 1920 (and Rules) and Foreigners Act of 1946. While this may seem to be a complex legal maze, the relevant parts of each of these laws is no more than 2-3 pages, and anyone can decode these laws in a few minutes.  A reading of the four sets of laws throws up some obvious limitations. Below is a summary…

Firstly, it needs to be understood that as a legal principle, any law that is intended to apply to historical facts must be interpreted narrowly, so that its implication is limited to precisely the historical fact pattern around which it seeks to legislate. This principle is important, because the CAA seeks to address the historical fact of persons who entered India prior to 31 December 2014.

Among the various conditions to be satisfied in aggregate, one is that persons sought to be provided citizenship under CAA were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution. Note that this language is explicitly in the Past. Tense.  This means that the fact of flight under religious persecution should have been established at the time they entered India, prior to 31 December 2014. Therefore, the sharper arguments should be as follows: (a) There should be a register of such persecuted migrants already existing in the Government records and the CAA should be applied only to such documented migrants; (b) The Government must be directed by the Supreme Court to apply the CAA only to already documented migrants; (b) The Government must be directed by the Supreme Court to apply the CAA only to already documented migrants, without expanding the list by documenting additional migrants after 31 December 2014; (c) For a migrant discovered today with no documentation, it cannot be credibly verified now whether entry into India more than five years ago was under religious persecution or otherwise; and therefore (d) It would be a violation of the law if entry under religious persecution is inserted today as a reason for migration that occurred more than five years ago – reports suggests that the UP State Government Is already attempting this.

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Soni’s Besan Papadi

Just the other day, Soni D’souza nee Bhalerao, a parishioner and the chef for our ashram, made palm sized deep fried papads. She said the presence of nachni prevents to a large extent the absorption of oil. I tried a modified bite sized version which is baked in the microwave and can be eaten as a healthy snack,

Ingredients

Black chick pea powder ( Kala Chana)  – 5 tablespoons

Chick pea powder ( Besan)  – 1 tablespoons

Nachni powder ( finger lillet)  – 2 tablespoons

Jeera poder – two pinches

Dhani powder – ½ teaspoon

Turmeric – 4 pinches

Chilli powder – ½ teaspoon

Whole jeera – ½ teaspoon

Ajwain – ¼ teaspoon

Salt – ½ teaspoon

Oil – 1 tablespoon to mix

Water – to mix (about three table spoons)

Additional oil to deep fry if you decide not to microwave

Method

Mix all the above ingredients together with one tablespoon of oil and water to mix. Add the water gradually as you want the dough to be firm. Roll the dough out into a ‘snake’ and divide and shape them into small roundels, the size of a rupee coin. On a marble top, roll out these roundels into flat shapes as you would with a chapatti. Note the edges will always look jagged. If you don’t have a marble table top these may tend to stick in which case place the roundels between two sheets of transparent plastic and roll it out.

Once rolled out you could deep fry or try the non-deep fried version in the microwave (I know many consider the micro unhealthy). I placed about five or six of the rolled besan papdi on a microwavable plate that was greased with a little oil (or else they stick to the plate). I ran the microwave at two minutes. You will need to test the first batch in your microwave.

If you make the healthy snack version you can keep them in an air tight box and eat them whenever you are hungry. The fried version is delicious and looks very different from the snack version when ready.  

Fr Warner Dsouza

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Choosing Godparents – Not a prize to be distributed!

Our sacramental life is plugged into key moments of our human existence. From womb to tomb, our souls our nourished by outward signs of inward grace. But key to this classic definition of what a sacrament is, are the words ‘outward signs’ and ‘inward grace’. The two go together and sadly we are often left mesmerized with the celebration or social obligations attached to these outward sign while the inward grace is left to the imagination.

Grace is not something; it is ‘somebody’, Jesus himself! and so sacramental celebrations that go beyond the compound walls of the Church must be an overflow of what is celebrated within the loving arms of the Church; If not, we take Jesus out of the equation and are left with empty rituals and overflowing social celebrations.

But what happens when the very choices we make within the sacramental action are governed by social niceties? One of the growing requests that are made despite the catechesis given to parents is the ‘request’ for ‘non-Catholic’ God parents at the time of Baptism. While this request may seem all too familiar with many priests I am more concerned about the choice of non-practicing Catholics as God parents. If you have no faith what will you give? A person cannot give what he or she does not have!

Choosing a Godparent for your child is not a prize to be distributed but a responsibility to be fulfilled.   The choice of godparents have often seems like a family obligation that needs to be met or a social honour to be bestowed on a friend. If we truly want the grace of God to be seen in these sacramental signs, if we truly desire the inward grace, then the choices we make must be Christ driven and not human appeasement.

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Christmas is not over – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time – MT 4:12-23 OR 4:12-17

So what if you have removed your decorations and have stopped popping marzipan sweets in your mouth; Christmas is not over! Matthew, the evangelist seems to agree with me; not with my liturgical incorrectness but with my trend of thought. We are in Chapter four of his gospel this Sunday, and have left behind the narrative of his birth, his baptism, his temptation and technically are somewhere at the beginning of his Galilean ministry. Yet I insist on wishing you a happy Christmas.

What is Christmas all about? It’s the celebration of God who gave us his son, the light of the world; a son who, as the evangelist John tells us, is the “light of all peoples”. So Christmas is not the celebration of a mere birth but the gift of light and life from God, His Son our Lord. As we say in the creed, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.  So each time we dispel the darkness and welcome the light, we celebrate Christmas; we celebrate Him, who is the light of the world. Today’s reading does exactly that. It reminds us why Jesus came into the world; he comes in fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah, chapter 9: 1 (Mat 4:16) “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”.

Let us understand this ‘darkness’ that Jesus steps into. Matthew is deliberately quoting Isaiah to make a point. Jesus in fulfillment of the scriptures enters Galilee of the gentiles, and makes his home in Capernaum by the sea in the territory of Zebulum and Naphtali. To understand this text and its consequences we have to go back in time.

In 722 BC , Tiglath Pillesar, the Assyrian king had conquered the northern half of Israel  namely Judah ( the region of Galilee in our text). Years later, the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in the south in 529 BC, destroying the temple and sending the people into exile. Seventy years later the exiles of the south returned to rebuild the temple during the Persian captivity (read the book of Haggai); but the north never really recovered and lost its strong Jewish identity to the cultural influences of the Gentiles who surrounded the land.

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SAUL TO PAUL: ‘The Conversion on the Way to Damascus’ by Caravaggio (1601)

The great and brilliant Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) goes down in history as the legendary bad boy.  His life was termed turbulent; his attitude – mad, bad and perilous. He lived by the sword and was apparently prosecuted for having carried one in public without a license. His litany of infringements include throwing a plate of artichokes in the waiter’s face, casting a sword against another man in a love dispute, hurling stones at his landlady and the worst of all murdering a man over a tennis match brawl.

With the eventual death sentence hanging round his neck, he flees from Rome to Naples, Sicily and Malta. Thanks to his powerful Roman lobby, in the summer of 1610 he receives a pardon for his crime. As he sails northwards towards Rome the news of his sudden spasmodic death spreads throughout the region. The cause was cited to be fever but later argued to be a murder.

The mystery surrounding Caravaggio’s death can hardly be compared to the fresh breath of life rendered by his art to posterity. His crazy genius is well reflected in today’s masterpiece titled ‘The Conversion on the Way to Damascus’. It was executed in 1601 for the Cerasi Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. The work was commissioned by Monsignor Tiberio Cerasi, Treasurer-General to Pope Clement VIII who had purchased the chapel from the Augustinian friars in July 1600.    

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