After a charged debate, the Constituent Assembly of India settled for a “jus soli” approach to citizenship. The first Home Minister of the Republic and a key contributor to the debates in the Constituent Assembly, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while arguing for a broad based, non-discriminatory criterion for citizenship, said “There are two ideas about nationality in the modern world, one is broad-based nationailty and the other is narrow nationality…It is not right for us to take a narrow view.” (CAD, 29th April 1947)
It should be kept in mind that even after being witness to the horrors of partition, the framers of our Constitution did not budge in favour of religion-based criteria. After the constitution was commenced and enacted, Patel again appreciated the framers for adopting an “enlightened modern civilised” approach for the Indian citizenship while stating the ethnicity-based citizenship as outdated. Sardar Patel and his colleagues from the Constituent Assembly, like Jawaharlal Nehru, BR Ambedkar, Maulana Azad among others crafted a framework for citizenship which could cater to diversity and historical experience of the subcontinent. Unfortunately, the duo from Gujarat who swear by the name of Sardar Patel is destroying the vision of the constitution towards creating this federal republic brick by brick.
Time and again, history has shown that religion cannot be the determinant of allegiance towards the nation. The principle of ‘Equality before Law’ irrespective of one’s religion, race, sexuality and gender is an absolute necessary precondition for the functioning of a just society. Making religion a criterion for offering citizenship and excluding one religion from it is an insult to the legacy of this country’s freedom struggle and the values it upheld, a fraud on our constitution and most importantly a nefarious attempt to institutionally otherise Muslims and plunge them into precarity and fear.