Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) proposes to grant citizenship to the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who arrived in India before December 31, 2014. The Congress and its allies have opposed this Act, but there is no strong ground for it. Actually, this Act has a special significance because leaders and institutions across the world have raised their voice against atrocities on these minorities on many occasions.
U.S. Department of State published an International Religious Freedom Report in 2007 on Afghanistan. This report clearly expresses concern over the minorities of this country. It says, “There are roughly 3,000 Sikh and Hindu believers… In the past, small communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Christians lived in the country; however, most members of these communities emigrated during the years of civil war and Taliban rule. Even at their peak, these non-Muslim minorities constituted less than one percent of the population. Most of the small Hindu and Sikh populations, which once numbered approximately 50,000 persons, took refuge abroad during the many years of conflict.”
According to The Telegraph Afghanistan is the least tolerant country in the world. While Pakistan ranks eighteenth in this list. Even in Bangladesh, the life of minorities has become difficult. They are facing land-grabbing, attacks, kidnapping, forced conversions, temple desecration, rape and murder or massacre on the regular basis. The reason behind of all this is undemocratic structure of Government and selective justice system. There was no democracy in Pakistan for many years whereas Afghanistan has not seen democracy till date. Second, many changes have taken place in the original constitution of these countries on the basis of religious fundamentalism. Therefore, theocracy is dominating the entire system of all three Islamic countries.
Persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh is as old as the birth of these countries. they have taken refuge in India
U.S. based international research institution, Pew Research Center did a survey of 39 Muslims majority countries. They asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scriptures, to be the official law of the land in their country. Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%), Pakistan (84%) and Bangladesh (82%) support sharia as their official law.
However, the official State religion of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is Islam. Their constitutions also requires the President or Head of the State to belong to the State religion. Officials must swear allegiance to the principles of Islam in their oaths of office. Political parties’ charters must not run contrary to the principles of Islam and the Ulema Council, a group of influential Islamic scholars, imams and jurists, meets regularly with government officials to advise on legislation.
In an another research Pew asked how Muslims feel about terrorist groups like ISIS? In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 39% in Afghanistan and 26% in Bangladesh. In Pakistan 9% say such violence is sometimes justified and 4% say it is often justified. These figures are sufficient to state that there is no place for the minorities in these countries.
On September 22, 2018 Global Human Right Defence (GHRD) organised a protest before the United Nations Office in Geneva to raise international awareness of persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. Over 100 protestors participated in a march through the centre of Geneva. This emphasises that the United Nations, European Union and the international community need to take immediate action to protect religious minorities.
This issue has been raised many times before the Congress of United States. Recently on July 25, 2018 Democratic member from California, Adam Schiff expressed his concern in the House, “I rise to call the House's attention to ongoing human rights abuses in Pakistan, particularly in the province of Sindh. For years, political activists and religious minorities in Sindh have faced daily threats of forced conversion, disappearances by security forces, and murder. Hundreds of Sindhis remain unaccounted for and others have been held away from their families for months or years to create a climate of fear and repression.”
Member of U.S. House of representative from Hawaii and aspirant American President Candidate, Tulsi Gabbard also revealed the situation of religious minorities in Bangladesh on April 21, 2016. She said in the House, “In Bangladesh, discrimination and deadly violence against atheists, secularists, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious minorities have unfortunately become a regular occurrence. This underscores the absolute necessity of not only defeating this global wave of intolerance, but standing up and fighting for the right of others to freely express their views regardless of whether you agree with those views or not.”
The persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh is as old as the birth of these countries. Therefore, they haven been continuing to take refuge in India for the last several decades. Pakistan’s largest selling newspaper The Dawn published a shocking report on March 20, 2015. According to their news, “265 cases of forced conversion, mostly involving Hindu girls, had been reported across the country last year while about 3,000 applications for migration were pending approval with the Indian embassy.”
This is an official figure but the actual migration is taking place in million. Unfortunately, these victims cannot find a shelter in any country of the world because of legal restrictions everywhere. Their only hope is from India because we have always had cultural and social relations with these three countries. So, it is the moral responsibility of India that these people can live the life with respect and pride which they are entitled.
(The writer is a Delhi-based columnist)