Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti (The real is one, the learned speak of it variously)
-The Rig Veda.
Bahudha approach is honouring of attitude and diversity of mind which respects other persons point of view. It is the rhizome of Indian philosophy. Indian culture and heritage are ancient and we stood as a nation even in tough times. Various universities which were hub of education like Takshasila, Nalanda and Nagarjuna university prevailed in ancient India. Our civilization takes roots in ancient-Indus valley civilization- where cities like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro flourished with a well-developed urban culture and trade in south east Asia.
India is also birth place of many major world religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Our culture induces in human minds, the readiness to accept people how they are and their ideologies or faiths. The peace which has been maintained for years in this country, is because of the native residents who accepted people from different parts of the world from ancient period.
In the 7th century when people of Zoroastrian (Parsis) faith of Sussanid empire were vanquished by the Arabs, they moved to Nargol in Gujarat. Jadhav Rana King of Sanjan embraced these people at that time and gave them equal opportunities to grow. Israelites have been given place in south India as early as 14th century when they were expelled by Alhambra Decree.
Similarly Digvijaysingh Ranjitsingh Jadega, Maharaja Jam sahib of Nawanagar created a home away from home for Polish refugees and orphans giving lives to 640 women and children at the time of World war II. He said “Do not consider yourself orphans. You are now Nawnagaris and I am Bapu, father of all the people of Nawanagar, so also yours.” On his name “Good Maharaja square” in Warsaw was inaugurated in 2013 in Poland.
In 1959 during the Tibetan Uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama along with his 80,000 disciples moved to India for asylum due to persecution by China. They were provided 3000 acres of land in Bylakuppe in Mysore district by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as asylum. Later on, we built schools and hospitals for the Tibetan community and scholarships were given to them. Also, Indian identity certificate (IRC) or Yellow books were given to them who wanted to travel abroad.
Similarly, in 1972, when the then Ugandan President, IDi Amin asked Indians living in Uganda to leave within 90 days, around 4500 refugees were welcomed in India and granted citizenship. Similarly, for Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka various pacts were signed initially like Nehru-Kotelawala Pact (1954), Sirima- Shastri Pact (1964) and Sirimavo- Gandhi pact (1974). Later in 1982, 90,000 Indian Tamils who were still in Sri Lanka, were granted Indian citizenship and 86,000 who had not applied for Indian citizenship were later granted Sri Lankan citizenship in 1988 and 2003 by Sri Lankan government. In this way, India shined as a place of refuge for ethnic or religious persecution from the ancient era.
Partition of India came on the lines of religion initially proposed by Syed Ahmed Khan in 1883 and later on supported by the All India Muslim league. Initially after partition there was exodus of 7 million people from both sides which led to death of 2,00,000 to 20,00,000 people. With continuous religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan, Neogy-Ghulam Mohammad Agreement was signed between the two rehabilitation ministers in 1948 to “check mass exodus in either direction” and minority boards were started in both countries. As the minority persecution continued in Pakistan in 1950, Nehru-Liaqat or Delhi pact was signed to protect the rights and properties of minorities who flew to India.
According to the pact, their properties needed to be returned once the situation calmed down. But this pact didn’t settle the issue and there was continuous migration of minorities from Bangladesh over years.A Gallup Poll in march 1955 was conducted in Kolkata wherein 87% people proposed war against Pakistan for the atrocities the minorities were facing in Pakistan. But this pact didn’t settle the issue and there was continuous migration of minorities from Bangladesh over years.
The failed agreements and Nehru’s political somnambulism made Shyama Prasad Mukherjee resign from cabinet and start Bharat Jan Sangh party against congress. In 1950 Jogendranath Mandal who joined Muslim league wrote to Liaqat on pogrom of 10000 Hindus in his own district Barisal, but due to death threat from Liaqat he left Pakistan and returned to west Bengal and sent resignation from there. Leaders in east Pakistan like Bhupendra Kumar Dutta and Dhirendranath Dutta were subjected to atrocities. Dhirendranath Dutta who worked as health minister and who requested Bengali to be the official language was killed by Pakistan forces.
Bhupendra Kumar Dutta political leader in east Pakistan was house arrested from 1958 to 1962 flew back to India unable to tolerate the atrocities over minorities in Pakistan. Similarly, many historians, Poets left Pakistan, got citizenship of India, settled in India and have received highest positions like Prime Minister (Manmohan singh, IK Gujral), Great actors (Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Yash chopra), athletes (Mikha Singh), in this country.
Mikha Singh ran away from Pakistan when killings in Pakistan was going on, he traveled to India in a train without ticket for which he was arrested and jailed. He was later recruited to army and became olympic medal winning athlete in India. A study by Abul Barkat a Bangladeshi economist found that between 1964-2013 around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh because of an anti-Hindu “Pogrom” an organised massacre happening in these countries to the minorities.
Citizenship Amendment act
Though citizenship in India was given by 6 means–> 1. citizenship at the time of constitution, citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent, citizenship by naturalisation, citizenship by registration and citizenship by accession into the country. Present amendment is on citizenship for naturalisation (section 6) in which citizenship is given for people who have lived more than 11 years which is reduced to 5 years for persecuted minorities who have come on or before Dec 31, 2014 under reasonable classification of constitution.
The proposed amendment of citizenship act includes a section of people from 6 religions (Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists) who are religiously persecuted in 3 contiguous neighbouring countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh). Religious persecution in these theocratic countries led to significant decline in the minority population in these countries. India, keeping up the promise under Delhi pact has proposed to amend the act and give citizenship to these people also by reducing criteria of stay from 11 to 6 years i.e., before 31 Dec 2014. Any Pakistani or Bangladeshi can still get Indian citizenship from front door through proper procedure and government has given citizenship to 600 and odd including singer Adnan Sami by this procedure.
Here there are two issues on giving citizenship based on this criterion
1. North eastern states and 2. Rest of India.
Keeping this in mind government has excluded areas under inner line permit (ILP) (Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland , Tripura and Manipur) and areas under 6th schedule of constitution which include areas of Assam, complete states of Meghalaya and Mizoram. Also, this violates Assam accord which was signed in 1985 which excludes giving citizenship to anyone after 24 th march 1971. Hence government has decided to exclude areas under 6th schedule and ILP and also included Manipur in ILP by constitutional amendment on December 10, 2019.
The opposition parties claim the CAA to be unconstitutional alleging that it is against article 14, 15 and 25. While the debate on the issue on article 14,15 and 25 rages on, it is important that likes to be compared with likes. It doesn’t violate article 14, as already minority institutions, travel allowances for minorities travelling to pilgrimage centres, only temples under government control, etc.., which are under reasonable classification do exist. But under article 11, Parliament has the right to decide for whom the citizenship needs to be given under reasonable classification which was also done earlier when a subset of people are given citizenship.
We cannot compare an illegal migrant to a refugee or an Indian citizen. Secondly it is not possible to grant citizenship to all the Muslim migrants, as it will be practically impossible to give citizenship to all the people from these countries. There is no persecution of Muslims in their home countries and they can return to their respective countries. The religious minorities however have nowhere else to go in the sub-continent. Also granting citizenship to Muslims from Pakistan exposes us to an unwarranted threat from terrorism.
One more criticism is it draws lakhs of persecuted minorities to India which is not possible as this amendment keeps the deadline for those people who had migrated to India on or before Dec 31, 2014. During Parliamentary meetings Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs on 1st March 2016, said there are 2,89,394 refugees in India of which 1,03,817 from Bangladesh and 1,02, 467 were from Srilanka. Of these 31,313 persons belonging to minor communities who are on Long term Visa on their claim of religious persecution are eligible for citizenship which includes Hindus -25447, Siks-5807, Christians- 55, Buddhists-2, Parsis-2.
Another question why Afghanistan was involved in the amendment. At the time of partition minorities living in the extreme west of Pakistan ran to Afghanistan as they can’t travel through Pakistan with fear of death. Most of them flew from there in between 1992-1996 and after 2005.
The bottom line is, the Citizenship amendment act does not affect Muslim citizens of India in any way. It is an act to grant citizenship to refugees of persecuted religious minorities and not to take away any one’s Bonafide Indian citizenship. The Muslims citizens of India are equally protected under the Constitution of India as people of any other religion.
It is our duty to honour our prior commitments to protection of persecuted religious minorities.
I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.
-Swami Vivekanada 1893 chicago, world parliament of religion
Dr. C. Vasu Reddy