Citizenship Amendment Bill: A humanitarian requirement

India was partitioned on basis of religion is a historical fact, nothing can obliterate this basic premise of founding of Pakistan. The aftermath of partition was a bloody affair, an unprecedented human tragedy took place which has no parallels in the human history of modern times. More than 12 million people were displaced and more than a million lost their lives in the aftermath.
Pakistan became an Islamic Republic, thanks to its protagonists who had declared that Muslims and Hindus cannot live together as anything but enemies. Same people became sworn enemies, shared culture was torn apart by further radicalization on both the sides. But India chose the Path of Secularism as her destiny and strive for equality in its politics and life of the Nation.

While India remained steadfast to its promise of equality and justice for all including the minorities, there was a systemic abuse of the principles of equality and justice for the minorities in the other half, Pakistan. Hindus, Sikhs Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis almost every one of the remaining people had to face the brunt of the Muslim majoritarianism, religious, social and cultural persecution remains a consistent and persistent State Policy as it is dictated by the politics of the country.

The conditions did not improve even after the further Partition of Pakistan with East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. In fact, there has been a steady decline in the population of the Hindus and other persecuted minorities in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. The population of minorities in Pakistan has declined to less than 3% from around 13% at the time of Partition. Hindus form just about 1.6% of the total from a high of 6%. Similarly, the Hindus in Bangladesh have seen a tremendous decrease in numbers, there are leading Bangladeshi public intellectuals saying on record that in few decades we may not even have Hindus in Bangladesh and this is from a high of 23% at the time of Partition. The decrease in numbers has coincided with the growing attacks on minorities in Bangladesh, Hindus in rural areas are being hounded out by a rapidly radicalising Muslim population. The fact that the population of Hindus has come down to less than 9% is the most glaring and damning evidence of sustained persecution. Less said the better it is about Afghanistan, it is a veritable Hell Hole for anyone.

It was such conditions in our neighbourhood which forced the present government to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Parliament. Even as the Parliament debates over the Morality and Expediency of the this Bill, more than a Thousand Hindu girls are abducted and forcibly married to Muslims in Pakistan every year.

The new amendment attempts to provide safety to the persecuted minorities in the nations which have declared themselves as Islamic Countries where the Rights of Minorities are subservient to the sentiments of the majority, ie., Muslims.

The amendments are Humanitarian in nature but are being called Exclusionary by the Opposition which has upped the ante against the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The Opposition’s grouse is that these amendments are politically motivated with the next General Elections in mind. It is a fact that even the most Humanitarian of measures have a political hue to it. The 1971 War between Pakistan and India was fought majorly on the humanitarian crisis of East Pakistan but the underlying politics of the War were evident even to a layman.

The present amendments arising out of grave humanitarian issues in the countries mentioned in the Bill must be seen in light of such conditions prevalent which makes it impossible for the minorities to live a life, least of all a Life of Dignity.

The amendments propose to grant citizenship even to the illegal immigrants who fall in the category of Persecuted, who do not have any document showing their country of origin.
It is shocking that the Opposition has opposed this Bill when it has consistently supported the illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh who are a threat to national security. The same set of people also support the entry of Rohangiya Muslims from Myanmar but oppose this Amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 which wants to extend the legal benefits of being an Indian citizen to these beleaguered immigrants.

This Bill is historical in more than one sense, it provides the persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, a place to call its own, gives them life and above all, it is in accordance with the Age Old tradition of India being the place which provides a hearth to the most despondent of the People.

The amendments want to reduce the period required for Long Term Visa from 12 years to 6 years. The proposed amendments clearly recognise the fact that Hindus who are facing an existential threat in Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have no other place to go except India which is the Spiritual Home to every Hindu in the World. The amendments also propose not to treat the Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Bauddhs and Christians as Illegal Immigrants as in the Citizenship Act of 1955.

However, there is a Disquiet in the North East India in general and Assam in particular where many feel that this Bill wants to circumvent the provisions of the recently held NRC under supervision of the Supreme Court. The fear stems from the innate nature of the political discourse prevalent in Assam where anything which even remotely appears to threaten the delicate nature of Demographics becomes a matter of life and death. The government has clarified that this Bill is not Assam specific or even North East specific but caters for Illegal Immigrants who fall in certain categories enumerated by the Bill for the entire country.

Asom Gana Parishad has withdrawn from the BJP government in Assam on this issue. The Civil Society too has criticised the Bill as a threat to indigenous Assamese people. The threat in view of the clarification by the Central Government must put to end to the endless fear mongering by the Opposition and the so called Civil Society.

The government must assuage the people of North East and Assam that these amendments are truly Humanitarian in nature as well as purpose. The fears of being overwhelmed by Illegal Hindu Bengalis is unfounded as the Demographics do not support this assertion.

The proposed amendments are keeping in line with our ancient principle of Vasudhaive Kutumbakam, the whole World is a Family. Hindus especially are the most targeted people in these countries, they are most vulnerable to hate crimes and forcible conversions.
Hard Facts are often the best evidence and figures of plight of Hindus suffering rampant abuse of women, life, property, religion in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are ample testimony to Persecution.

It must remain the utmost priority of the Government to get this momentous legislation passed in the Parliament to allow a sense of equality and justice for the persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

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