All of us know that the first Law Minister of India was a Dalit, but very few people know that the first Law Minister of Pakistan was also a Dalit. His name was Jogendra Nath Mandal and it is tragic that he helped Muslim League getting districts like Sylhet in Assam by mobilising his support in their favour. Ironically, he died as a refugee in West Bengal after resigning from the Cabinet of Pakistan on October 8, 1950. His resignation letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan tells everything about the nature and scale of serious atrocities that were inflicted on the minorities in Pakistan. He writes: “It is with a heavy heart and a sense of utter frustration at the failure of my lifelong mission to uplift the backward Hindu masses of East Bengal that I feel compelled to tender resignation of my membership of your cabinet. It is proper that I should set forth in detail the reasons which have prompted me to take this decision.
After general elections held in March 1946 Mr. Suhrawardy became the leader of the League Parliamentary Party in March 1946 and formed the League Ministry in April 1946. I was the only Scheduled Caste member returned on the federation ticket. I was included in Mr. Suhrawardy’s Cabinet. The 16th day of August of that year was observed in Calcutta as ‘The Direct Action Day’ by the Muslim League. It resulted, as you know, in a holocaust. Hindus demanded my resignation from the League Ministry. My life was in peril. I began to receive threatening letters almost every day. But I remained steadfast to my policy. Moreover, I issued an appeal through our journal ‘Jagaran’ to the Scheduled Caste people to keep themselves aloof from the bloody feud between the Congress and the Muslim League even at the risk of my life. I cannot but gratefully acknowledge the fact that I was saved from the wrath of infuriated Hindu mobs by my Caste Hindu neighbours. The Calcutta carnage was followed by the ‘Noakhali Riot’ in October 1946. There, Hindus including Scheduled Castes were killed and hundreds were converted to Islam. Hindu women were raped and abducted. Members of my community also suffered loss of life and property. Immediately after these happenings, I visited Tipperah and Feni and saw some riot-affected areas. The terrible sufferings of Hindus overwhelmed me with grief, but still I continued the policy of co-operation with the Muslim League…It may also be mentioned in this connection that I was opposed to the partition of Bengal. In launching a campaign in this regard I had to face not only tremendous resistance from all quarters but also unspeakable abuse, insult and dishonour. With great regret, I recollect those days when 32 crores of Hindus of this Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent turned their back against me and dubbed me as the enemy of Hindus and Hinduism, but I remained undaunted and unmoved in my loyalty to Pakistan.
The first incident that shocked me, took place at a village called Digharkul near Gopalganj where on the false complaint of a Muslim brutal atrocities were committed on the local Namahsudras. The fact was that a Muslim who was going in a boat attempted to throw his net to catch fish. A Namahsudra who was already there for the same purpose opposed the throwing of the net in his front. This was followed by some altercation and the Muslim got annoyed and went to the nearby Muslim village and made a false complaint that he and a woman in his boat had been assaulted by the Namahsudras. At that time, the S.D.O. of Gopalganj was passing in a boat through the canal, who without making any enquiry accepted the complaint as true and sent armed police to the spot to punish the Namahsudras. The armed police came and the local Muslims also joined them. They not only raided some houses of Namahsudras but mercilessly beat both men-women, destroyed their properties and took away valuables. The merciless beating of a pregnant women resulted in abortion on the spot. This brutal action on the part of the local authority created panic over a large area.
The second incidence of police oppression took place in early part of 1949 under P.S. Gournadi in the district of Barisal. Here a quarrel took place between two groups of members of a Union Board. One group which was in the good books of the police conspired against the opponents on the plea of their being Communists. On the information of a threat of attack on the Police Station, the O.C., Gournadi requisitioned armed forces from the headquarters. The Police, helped by the armed forces, then raided a large number of houses in the area, took away valuable properties, even from the houses of absentee-owners who were never in politics, far less in the Communist Party. A large number of persons over a wide area were arrested. Teachers and students of many High English Schools were Communist suspects and unnecessarily harassed. This area being very near to my native village, I was informed of the incident. I wrote to the District Magistrate and the S.P. for an enquiry. A section of the local people also prayed for an enquiry by the S.D.O. But no enquiry was held. Even my letters to the District authorities were not acknowledged. I then brought this matter to the notice of the highest Authority in Pakistan, including yourself but to no avail.
During my nine days’ stay at Dacca, I visited most of the riot-affected areas of the city and suburbs. I visited Mirpur also under P.S. Tejgaon. The news of the killing of hundreds of innocent Hindus in trains, on railway lines between Dacca and Narayanganj, and Dacca and Chittagong gave me the rudest shock. On the second day of Dacca riot, I met the Chief Minister of East Bengal and requested him to issue immediate instructions to the District authorities to take all precautionary measures to prevent spreading of the riot in district towns and rural areas. On the 20th February 1950, I reached Barisal town and was astounded to know of the happenings in Barisal. In the District town, a number of Hindu houses were burnt and a large number of Hindus killed. I visited almost all riot-affected areas in the District. I was simply puzzled to find the havoc wrought by the Muslim rioters even at places like Kasipur, Madhabpasha and Lakutia which were within a radius of six miles from the District town and were connected with motorable roads. At the Madhabpasha Zamindar’s house, about 200 people were killed and 40 injured. A place, called Muladi, witnessed a dreadful hell. At Muladi Bandar alone, the number killed would total more than three hundred, as was reported to me by the local Muslims including some officers. I visited Muladi village also, where I found skeletons of dead bodies at some places. I found dogs and vultures eating corpses on the river-side. I got the information there that after the whole-scale killing of all adult males, all the young girls were distributed among ringleaders of the miscreants. At a place called Kaibartakhali under P.S. Rajapur, 63 persons were killed. Hindu houses within a stone’s throw distance from the said thana office were looted, burnt and inmates killed. All Hindu shops of Babuganj Bazar were looted and then burnt and a large number of Hindus were killed. From detailed information received, the conservative estimate of casualties was placed at 2,500 killed in the District of Barisal alone. Total casualties of Dacca and East Bengal riot were estimated to be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 killed. The lamentation of women and children who had lost their all including near and dear ones melted my heart. I only asked myself “what was coming to Pakistan in the name of Islam”.
I would like to reiterate in this connection my firm conviction that East Bengal Government is still following the well-planned policy of squeezing Hindus out of the Province. In my discussion with you on more than one occasion, I gave expression to this view of mine. I must say that this policy of driving out Hindus from Pakistan has succeeded completely in West Pakistan and is nearing completion in East Pakistan too. The appointment of D.N. Barari as a Minister and the East Bengal Government’s unceremonious objection to my recommendation in this regard strictly conform to name of what they call an Islamic State. Pakistan has not given the Hindus entire satisfaction and a full sense of security. They now want to get rid of the Hindu intelligentsia so that the political, economic and social life of Pakistan may not in any way be influenced by them.
Now this being in brief the overall picture of Pakistan so far as the Hindus are concerned, I shall not be unjustified in stating that Hindus of Pakistan have to all intents and purposes been rendered “Stateless” in their own houses. They have no other fault than that they profess the Hindu religion. Declarations are being repeatedly made by Muslim League leaders that Pakistan is and shall be an Islamic State. Islam is being offered as the sovereign remedy for all earthly evils”.
After this Mandal came back to India and started living in West Bengal. He died in the state of West Bengal as a Bengali Hindu migrant/refugee in the year 1968. The death of first Law Minister of Pakistan as a refugee in India is a testimony to the failure of Pakistan (either in East or in West) in fulfilling its responsibilities towards its minorities. In the case of Pakistan’s failure to ensure the rights of its minorities, they become a responsibility of India as a part of an obligation of Partition and cannot be left to perish or convert.
When India was partitioned in 1947, the share of Muslim population was 8% which amounted to 3 crore. In 2019, the percentage of Muslim population is around 18% amounting to 25 crore. Whereas in Pakistan and Bangladesh Hindu and Sikh population is on the verge of extinction and the statistics are speaking for themselves about the great failure of Nehru-Liaquat Pact by Pakistan when it comes to rights of the minorities. The policies adopted by the then Government during the Partition have brought havoc in the life of these religious minorities fallen on the other side of the border and now they are at the verge of extinction. These persecuted religious minorities fallen on the side of ‘Islamic Territory’ have no option other than to take shelter in India as their umbilical cord is attached with us. Not only this during Partition we have also given them the assurance and commitment that if something untoward happens, India will assimilate them. But what happened after Partition is a complete denial and disregard to that ‘National Commitment’ and assurance given to these religious minorities during Partition. The leadership had just forgotten their promise in their haste to enjoy the fruit of ruling India. Still lingering plight of such migrated Hindu and Sikh refugees who are still not having Citizenship rights in India even after seven decades of Partition is a testimony of their apathy towards the native and cultural sons of India. Their apathy still continues in the backdrop of shallow and hollow commitment to ‘Secularism’, but eventually by the opposition parties, who are also playing their dangerous religious card for getting vote bank assurance from the fundamentalist, who were then responsible for Partition also. In their entire political calculation they seldom think about religious minorities persecuted in Pakistan and Bangladesh who fled to India and still living as refugee. Because for them rights of Hindus or Sikhs has no political relevance. The Act immunizes the migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - those who belong to the minority community from any kind of prosecution in case of expiration of their visa or overstay in India. The other section reduces the period of naturalization required before applying for Indian Citizenship to five years from earlier eleven year in totality.
For religious minorities, who are victims of oppression just because of their religious identity in their own countries, any action for their protection won’t dent secularism, as the contrary is being claimed. It would rather uphold and strengthen our secularism which seeks to protect and promote the rights of every individual irrespective of his/her religion. The very purpose of CAA is to ensure well-being of minorities who are suffering religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Since Muslims are neither minorities nor do they face persecution because of their religious affiliation in these countries, they are obviously not included here. It is important to note that the law doesn’t discriminate against the Indian Muslims who are its citizens, it only aims to protect those minorities who get persecuted in their home countries owing to their religious affiliation.
(The writer is a an advocate, Supreme Court of India)