The genesis of this amendment lies in the failure of India's three neighbouring countries to protect its minorities and primarily Hindus.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill expected to be tabled in the Indian Parliament in the ongoing session seems to have set the cat among the pigeons but ironically most of those opposing it fail to understand perhaps the gravity of the situation as well as the historical context.
The proposed amendment would help non-Muslim including Hindu refugees from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to get Indian citizenship much easily than prescribed in earlier regulations.
The genesis of this amendment lies in the failure of these three neighbouring countries to protect its minorities and primarily Hindus. A month before the formation of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah had declared in a Press Conference in Delhi on July 13, 1947, “The minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or their faith or belief will be protected in every way possible. Their life and property will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with the freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their property and their culture. They will be in all respects treated as citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste, religion or creed.”
Jinnah had reiterated in his Presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, “The first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.”
However, the partition saw all these assurances going for a toss. Not only in 1947, but the atrocities on Hindus have continued in Pakistan unabated ever since it came into existence.
JN Mandal, who had accepted the Cabinet appointment as Minister of Law and Labour in the Government of Pakistan, had given a detailed account of these atrocities in 1950 “and, while he was still holding that post, (he) fled from Pakistan in September 1951. In early October 1951, he sent his letter of resignation to the Pakistan Prime Minister. He describes in detail the reasons for his resignation and for leaving Pakistan previously been appointed in the quota of Muslim League as a Minister in the Interim Government of undivided India on November 1, 1946. In this letter in paragraph 9, he complained about the general anti-Hindu policy of the East Bengal Government and the Police administration. (Recurrent Exodus of Minorities from East Pakistan and Disturbances in India, 1965, p. 9)”
Bhupendra Kumar Dutta, a prominent minority leader of East Pakistan speaking in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on March 16, 1950 said, “Sir, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, we meet under the shadow of a great calamity that threatens our very existence as a community. Reports may be exaggerated; reports may be minimised. Killings may be put in four figures but accepted in three. Women's honour may have suffered in many more cases than the world will ever come to know. There will always be different versions of the extent of the loss of property. But the fact cannot be controverted that the sudden flare-up in east Bengal since February 10th has left the vast numbers we represent stunned and dazed, utterly shaken and nervous and psychologically.”
According to official records (Extracts from Recurrent Exodus of Minorities from East Pakistan and Disturbances in India, 1965, p. 4)
● After 1950 killings with which we shall presently deal, the Hindu holdings of properties fell to 12.7% and nearly 90% of Hindu citizen of Dhaka migrated to India. Similar is the case with the student population in Dhaka.
● From 2900 Hindu boys in schools before partition, 2000 remained before February 1950 killings. And at the end of December 1950 the number was reduced to 140.
●Similarly there were about 2100 Hindu girls in schools before partition about 1200 before the February 1950 incident of these only 25 remained by December 1950.
●The population of Hindu college students fell from 65% at partition to 7% in January 1950 and at the end of 1950, only 12 remained.
● Similar is the case with lawyers. Hindu shops at the time of Partition and at the end of 1950 only 157 remained.
● Of these the population of There were about 1500 in each of the 45 big and small towns, with the exception of the five smaller ones, Hindu inhabitants were in majority though taking. The total population the number of Hindus amounted to 30 per cent.
These atrocities have continued unabated. If we look at the recent past, there have been numerous such incidents which were raised in even the Parliament and the governments of the day responded to it.
On July 28, 1987, Eduardo Faleiro, Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs said in Rajya Sabha, “Reports emanating from Pakistan in May-June, 1987 indicate that there have been attacks on Hindu temples as well as on shops and properties belonging to the Hindu community in Sind.”
Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of External Affairs at that time, had told the Rajya Sabha on December 6, 2007, “Reports of violence and atrocities against minorities including Hindus in Bangladesh are received from time to time. The primary responsibility for the protection of the life, liberty and property of all citizens of Bangladesh, including minorities, rests with the Government of Bangladesh. It has been conveyed at the highest levels of Government that such incidents have an adverse impact on public sentiment in India, which in turn have the potential of affecting bilateral ties, and should be strictly dealt with. The Government of India continue to monitor the situation closely and are in touch with the Government of Bangladesh in this regard.”
SM Krishna, Minister of External Affairs told Rajya Sabha, on May 6, 2010, “
“It is the responsibility of the Government of Pakistan to discharge its obligations towards its citizens, including minorities. However, based on reports of persecution of minority groups in Pakistan, the Government had taken up the matter with the Government of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan stated that it was fully cognizant of the situation and looked after the welfare of all its citizens, particularly the minority community.”
On March 22, 2012 E Ahmad, Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs told Rajya Sabha about the ‘Killing of Hindu Doctors in Pakistan. Ahmad said,
“Government has seen media reports about the killing of Hindu doctors in Pakistan on November 7, 2011. Three Hindu doctors were reportedly killed and one sustained injuries when attacked in their village in Taluka Chak, District Shikarpur in Pakistan.”
On September 5, 2012 Mullappally Ramachandran, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs told Rajya Sabha about the Hindu families from Pakistan seeking refuge in India. The Minister said, “In 2009, 6,437 Hindus entered India from Pakistan via Attari ICP. Of these, 1,198 did not return. In 2010, 6,036 Hindus entered and 491 did not return. Similarly, in 2011, 5,012 Hindus entered and 1248 did not return.
As on June 30, 2012, a total number of 18,185 (progressive figures) Pakistani nationals were staying on Long Term Visa (LTV) in the country.
Government has seen reports that some Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities including Hindus, who came to India on valid visas have not gone back to Pakistan on the grounds of religious persecution in Pakistan. Representations have been received requesting for allowing extension of visas of such Pakistani nationals and also for permitting them to apply for Long Term Visa.”
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)