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Hackernoon logoAnswering Political Debates with #Code: India's Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 by@utsavjaiswal

Answering Political Debates with #Code: India's Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019

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@utsavjaiswalUtsav Jaiswal

Reads. Writes. Reads. Repeats.

Social media has made us all a little too toxic. How did we get here? When was the last time we appreciated the public policy designed by the political parties that we didn't support? 

Quite a long time ago. Right?

A part of the problem lies in the nature of the beast that is social media. It gives a voice to all of us and all of us have a political dispensation that colors our beliefs.

For example, if you belong to the Leftist dispensation, your beliefs will lead you towards greater state control over public goods such as Healthcare, education, and transport.

Similarly, the Rightists among you will wish for lesser governmental oversight, promotion of individual enterprise, and of course, a dash of nationalistic fervor.

There are no true non-partisan politicians. It's a tug o' war between the two factions and that tensed rope represents a state of dynamic equilibrium that keeps law-abiding citizens from rioting on the streets.

(Source: tes.com)

But all is not well at the moment.

The rise of the Right over the past few years has shaken that dynamic equilibrium. It has made the Far-Right xenophobic and the Far-Left anarchic.

(Source: Quora)

At the turn of the millennium, these extremists were fringe elements whose reach never permeated the masses. But now, with social media, hashtags, and private groups, they can now disseminate their poison to the masses.

Thus, it is now us, the citizens of the world, that are in that state of dynamic equilibrium, instead of the political elites. As we consume more social media and are targeted and retargeted by political ads run by vested interest groups, our descent towards xenophobia or anarchy continues unabated.

(Source: NowThis News)

That is why we need to examine these social media-driven narratives with non-partisan code. A non-partisan code is nothing but a program that addresses the concerns of both camps.

How about I show you how it works instead of writing a 5000-word treatise?

India's Citizenship Amendment Bill: Summary

The Indian Government (Rightist), in December 2019 proposed a citizenship amendment bill that, if passed by the Indian Parliament, will expedite the process of granting Indian citizenship to those belonging to 6 religious denominations from its neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Since the current Indian Government is Rightist, the leftists oppose it. The rationale for their opposition is rooted in the fact that the majority religious denomination in India's neighbors is a minority religious denomination in India.

Thus, the leftists claim that the law discriminates against its minority's religion by inviting for citizenship all but those from the majority religion of its neighbors. It is also alleged by the left that such a law will lead to the deportation of a large number of migrants that came to India from its neighboring countries (mostly by illegal means) to make a better living for themselves.

On the other hand, the Rightists claim that the law would provide relief to those facing religious persecution in its neighborhood. They also claim that the deportation of the illegal migrants (often of the majority religious denomination of India's neighbors) will reduce anti-social activities perpetrated in and by the ghettoized slums where they reside.

Therefore, the goals for a non-partisan code are clear. It must be able to achieve the goals of the bill, in its entirety, without asking for the religion of the applicant. If it can do so, a case can be made that the bill does not contain mischievous intent to discriminate against ANY religious denomination.

Before I present the code, it is a good time to disclose that I've just started learning to code so some formatting notations might not be present.

Also pertinent to note is that the author self-identifies as a rightist but agrees with several features of the leftist beliefs.

indian_neighbours = ["afghanistan","pakistan","bangladesh"]
nationality = input("Which Country Are You A Citizen Of ? --> ")
def citizenship_amendment_bill():
    if nationality.lower() == "india":
        print ("You're Already an Indian Citizen. #Jai_Hind")
    elif nationality.lower() in indian_neighbours:
        print ("Welcome to the Citizenship Amendment Bill")
        for neighbour in indian_neighbours:
            if neighbour == nationality.lower():
                print ("Are You Victimized on the Basis of Your Religion in " +nationality.title()+ " ?")
                status = input("Type Yes or No --> ")
                if status.lower() == "yes":
                    print ("India will expedite your process of becoming an Indian citizen.")
                elif status.lower() == "no":
                    print ("Apply for Indian Citizenship as per Existing Laws")
    else:
        print ("The Citizenship Amendment Bill is not Applicable in your Case")
    return
citizenship_amendment_bill()

You can test out this code in any online Python 3 development environment.

In case you're even newer to programming than I or are completely unfamiliar with coding, here's a flowchart depicting the same code in a pictorial format that is easier to visualize.

Learnings from the Non-Partisan Code

While a case can be made that the bill does not discriminate on the basis of religion, it does discriminate on the basis of nationality. This is evident from the list in Line 1 of the code.

indian_neighbours = ["afghanistan","pakistan","bangladesh"]

For it to be a truly non-partisan bill, the citizenship amendment bill should provide for expedited citizenship to all persecuted minorities, from any country in the world, and not just these three countries.

The rightist in me believes that the list in line #1 will one day expand to include other persecuted minority groups such as the Uighurs of China. However, until that day comes, this bill will be deemed colored with a bias towards Indic religions.

#In a Future Amendment to this Amendment

indian_neighbours = ["afghanistan","pakistan","bangladesh", "china", "sri lanka"...]

Another issue that the bill does not address is that of the sub-denominations and the ultra-marginalized. Within India's neighboring countries, there are several persecuted sub-denominations of the majority religion and other historically marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ communities.

Here too, the belief is that one day, the Indian citizenship amendment bill/act would provide for expedited citizenship to all marginalized people and not just those that profess a faith similar to its majority community.

#In a future amendment to the amendment

for neighbour in indian_neighbours:
            if neighbour == nationality.lower():
                print ("Are You Victimized in " +nationality.title()+ " ?")
                status = input("Type Yes or No --> ")
                if status.lower() == "yes":
                    print ("India will expedite your process of becoming an Indian citizen.")
                elif status.lower() == "no":
                    print ("Apply for Indian Citizenship as per Existing Laws")

Lastly, neither the code nor the bill addresses the regionalistic demands of India's North-Eastern states that are clamoring for a complete shutdown of granting citizenship to migrants, irrespective of their religion. My reason for omitting it is two-fold:

  1. Regionalism is parochial and does not conform with the globalistic principles that we need to stem xenophobia
  2. My coding skills are rudimentary and I didn't want the code to go over 20 lines

Conclusion

It is sufficiently clear that the citizenship amendment bill, in its current form, is a step in the right direction. But, it has a long way to go before it can address the leftists' allegations of its communal nature.

It is religion-agnostic but discriminates on the basis of geography which, throughout history, has had strong correlations with people's religion.

After all, a community is nothing but a group of people living in close proximity and possessing similar habits and customs.

Do you like such pieces of sanitized content? Should I do more? I hope you say yes - It's a good way for me to learn programming. Which bill/law should I try to emulate as a non-partisan code next? Let me know in the comments section and look out for it next week.

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