At midnight when the world was sleeping the line was drawn dividing brothers/ sisters from brothers/sisters. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists who did not want to be citizens of an Islamic theocratic state had little choice once the political boundary was drawn. Many did not want to leave their birthplace, so they decided to stay on in Pakistan. Rise of fundamentalist force led to religious persecution of the minority communities. Hindus which constituted 30% of East Pakistan’s (now Bangladesh) population in 1947 declined to 9.7% in 2011.
“This steep decline has mostly resulted from the overall effect of the persecution inflicted on the Hindus over the decades…the people who once constituted one-third of the total population, have been reduced almost to a vanishing breed always threatened with extinction,” says Kushtia Islamic University professor Dr. Rashid Askari. Hindus were worst hit in 1971.
US Senator Edward Kennedy’s report submitted to the Senate committee testifies to the violence committed against the Hindus: “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked “H”. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad”.
Healing the wounds left by colonial history and giving shelter and citizenship to the persecuted minorities in Islamic theocratic Pakistan was a national commitment of Indian leadership which remains unfulfilled. Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution on November 25, 1947 declaring that “the Congress is bound to afford full protection to all non-Muslims from Pakistan who have crossed the border and come over to India or many do so to save their life and honour.” Mahatma Gandhi on September 26, 1947 declared in a prayer meeting that ‘the Hindus and the Sikhs staying in Pakistan, can come to India by all means, if, they do not wish to continue there. In that case, it is the duty of the Indian Government to give them jobs and make their lives comfortable.”
Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked “H”
Congress was committed to these people until recently. Dr Manmohan Singh as leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha maintained on December 18, 2003 that the minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution and it is our moral obligation, that, if circumstances force people, these unfortunate people, to seek refuge in our country, approach to granting citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 passed in the Parliament gives citizenship to those persecuted people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have been staying in India for more than 6 years till December 31, 2014. Today, Congress and other so-called liberals are opposing the move. Some ethnic groups from Assam are also opposing on the ground that it may pose a threat to the linguistic identity of the Assamese once Bengali Hindus pour into the state. But Census report reveals that the Hindu population in Assam declined from 72.5% in 1971 to 61.5% in 2011; it clearly indicates there was no Hindu Bengali migration during the period which otherwise should have increased.
Of those who came prior to 1971, some six lakhs Bengali Hindus’ names have been left out of the NRC because the Supreme court rejected migration certificate as a valid document to claim one’s citizenship. The migration certificate was issued by the central Government in 1956 who came to India in the aftermath of partition. On the other hand, Muslim population witnessed a sharp rise from 24% in 1971 to 34% in 2011. Vote bank politics has added complexity to the issue now which was otherwise a consensus.
(The writer is HoD, Department of English, Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya, Guwahati)
Scathing Rebuttal to USCIRF
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) takes strong note of the USCIRF attempt to meddle in India’s internal affairs using Citizenship Amendment Bill
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), known for its notoriety to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, seems to have not learnt any lesson in the changing world where its clout is decreasing in the new world order. The unscrupulous US Agency cannot anymore dictate terms to sovereign republics like India and get away with it.
On December 9, 2019 the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) by a huge majority. The Bill tabled by Union Home Minister Amit Shah was supported by political parties across the spectrum. However, many parties and forces inimical to India’s interests have been indulging in scare-mongering ever since the debate on CAB started. Several NGOs and HR organisations portrayed CAB as anti-Muslim which is far from the truth.
This nefarious agenda to stymie passing of CAB has now spilled over to the US and a few of its agencies which are still under the impression that they are still the policeman of the world. Now the USCIRF with its half-baked knowledge of the CAB and with information solicited from the Left-Liberal cabal has tried to meddle in India’s internal affairs using CAB.
The USCIRF had issued a statement saying that the agency is deeply troubled by the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha. The agency accused that CAB provides citizenship for immigrants excluding Muslims. It charged that the Amendment sets up a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. However, the misinformed or deliberately ignorant USCIRF was given a scathing reply by the MEA.
The MEA called out the USCIRF for its inaccurate and unwarranted comments on CAB. The MEA statement said that the agency has chosen to be guided by their prejudices and biases on which they have little knowledge and no locus standi.
It is worthwhile to remember that the US government under Trump had declared that the US will prioritise Christian refugees who have been persecuted in various countries, especially Islamic countries. With such a precedent, the USCIRF’s concerns are not only fake but hollow. It would do well for the agency to stand by the Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Jain, Buddhist and Christian minorities who have been persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and forgotten by the world and to whom India is only trying to provide the much-needed succor.