Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, passed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill. I was listening to the proceedings till it was put to vote. My interest was specially in listening to P. Chidambaram, who was there fresh from Tihar Jail and Kapil Sibal, the legal eagle of the Congress party. Due to a diversion, I missed out listening to Kapil Sibal who, in any case, did not say anything strong enough to dismantle the amendment from what I read in the newspapers.
As for Chidambaram, it was a laboured response to Home Minister Amit Shah’s detailed and persuasive exposition of an important and urgent humanitarian amendment to the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955.
As if these two gentlemen had a premonition of what would happen if the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed, they spoke of the inevitability of the Bill landing in the Supreme Court questioning its Constitutional validity.
Incidentally, this was not for the first time the Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended. For reasons of expediency it was earlier amended too. Anyway, the good news for the religious minorities who have migrated to India is it was passed with 125 members for and 105 against.
After I shut the TV and moved out for a small walk, I began to reflect on many historical events, specially the arrivals of the invaders from outside our country, Hindustan, where Hindu rulers held the sway. Some came as invaders and defeated the local rulers, while others came as traders and exploited the wealth of the country. According to history, India was of great attraction to foreign invaders and traders and seems to be so even today for persecuted minorities. After all, Hindus believe in the ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam !
It is surprising and inexplicable that despite the partition of India of the British Raj (Akhand Bharat) between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority at the demand of the Muslims, the attraction to truncated India from the persecuted religious minority seems to persist. I remember to have read that about 616 Pakistan Muslims were given citizenship of Hindu majority India! But “Pakistan’s policy was not to have any non-Muslims back”! [see last column]
Incidentally, the word ‘Pak’ means ‘Pure,’ and ‘istan’ means ‘Land.’ But now the whole world knows how pure it is.
In retrospect, anyone reading history of the partition would know there was no proper planning in demarcating the borders in a humanitarian and viable manner. The partition was conceived based on the idea that the Muslim majority areas should be given to the Muslims of India. That was how half of Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) became Pakistan to the West of India, while in the East of India West Pakistan was created out of Bengal as East Pakistan. Now known as Bangladesh after it separated from Pakistan in 1971.
Not surprisingly, both Pakistan and Bangladesh are Islamic Republics free from the ideal of Secularism. And Hindu majority India, not surprisingly, is shining as a Secular country of equal opportunity to both its Hindu majority and other minorities, namely Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Parsis and whoever is in the minority group.
One imagined that after partition, the Hindu-Muslim problem would be solved and there would be peace. Unfortunately it did not happen.
The Bill provides for Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who fled due to religious, political or economic persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and entered India before 2015. Now that the Bill is passed, all the illegal migrants, except Muslims will get Indian Citizenship. Minority communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians coming from the Islamic countries namely Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be eligible for Indian citizenship.
Curiously, our Opposition leaders are demanding that illegal immigrants belonging to Muslim community too should be included and not excluded. The consequence of accepting the demand of the Opposition would be anybody’s guess. Of course, the Opposition parties who hope to benefit from the Muslim Vote Bank may be ignoring the consequence to the country. I do not know. In fact, it might even mean the defeat of the very purpose of partitioning India between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Now the question is: Was the partition of India on the basis of religion a mistake?
If it was a mistake, then did our leaders of that time make a second mistake by not prescribing a sovereign remedy for securing peace and homogeneity by arranging for a total exchange of population, Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from Hindustan? This was the prescription mentioned in Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s book “Thoughts on Pakistan” published in 1940. There is before us a very good example of securing peace and homogeneity by arranging for a total exchange of population like it was done in Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria to solve their internecine wars. In Indian context we might say we could have solved the endemic communal riots.
Be that as it may, from the humanitarian point of view, we must consider every human being, no matter to which religion he belongs, as a divine creation. It is the same God who created the Hindu also created a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Sikh, a Jain and a Parsi. Then why minorities in the Islamic republics like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are persecuted? Who will make their political and religious leaders understand this universal truth? This is my despair. Why not our Opposition leaders persuade these Islamic countries to make their country Secular like India?
I have read in books and newspapers that many minority people from Muslim majority, theocratic countries, would love to get back to their roots — the town, city or village from where they were uprooted — if they are given a chance.
I was reading the autobiography of Kuldip Nayar, India’s well-known journalist, a former Member of the Parliament who was Indian High Commissioner to the UK during V.P. Singh’s Government. During Emergency he went to Jail. He was born in Sialkot (now in Pakistan) and educated at Lahore, also now in Pakistan. He later migrated to India with his parents and siblings, miraculously escaping from being killed. It is impossible for those who never faced such situations to imagine a real life situation like that.
My heart goes out to all those who were killed and to all those who are even today persecuted for religious reasons in Pakistan. The desire to get back to one’s birth place, the pull of the umbilical cord, is so strong that I have seen this when Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, having spent more than 45 years outside Kodagu, coming back to Kodagu after retirement. There are many examples of this kind.
But, let me mention here about Kuldip Nayar’s father, Dr. Gurbaksh Singh Nayar who, sometime after partition, living in India with his children, was still longing to return to Sialkot.
In his autobiography, Kuldip Nayar writes that he took his father to Fida Hussain, Chief Secretary of Pakistan’s Punjab, who was visiting Delhi on official work. Fida Hussain was once Deputy Commissioner at Sialkot and knew Kuldip Nayar’s father Dr. Gurbaksh Singh Nayar who had been his family physician at that time.
When the subject matter of the meeting was broached, Fida Hussain was very frank and told him that “Pakistan’s policy was not to have any non-Muslims back.” That ended the matter. Kuldip Nayar’s father’s dream was shattered as he realised that there was no chance for him to go back to his birth place.
Kuldip Nayar writes in a very poignant manner, “Neither my father nor my mother were the same after having lost their home in Sialkot. They felt their life ended when they left their home.”
Well, should this happen because of a religion or religions? Is our religion bereft of humanity? A complex and inscrutable question. A Yaksha Prashna that even Dharmaraya may not be able to answer.
e-mail: [email protected]