By Saroj Bala
Ever since the notification of Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, after being debated and passed in both houses of Parliament, the people of India are in turmoil; with many protesting against the legislation and many others agitating in support of the CAA and NPR. English media has been heavily biased in favour of anti-CAA protesters. In this article, I propose to give a very objective analysis and interpretation of CAA, including all its pros and cons.
The right to citizenship of India is governed by the Part II of the Constitution of India (Articles 5 to 11). According to Article 5, all the people that were resident in India at the commencement of the Constitution were citizens of India. The conferment of citizenship on persons who migrated from Pakistan after partition was regulated under The Citizenship Act, 1955, which provided citizenship by Birth, by Descent, by Registration and by Naturalization. This Act has been amended by the Citizenship (Amendment) Acts of 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015, and 2019.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has no applicability on the citizens of India but has only provided an easier path to citizenship for minorities persecuted for their religious belief, i.e Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, who entered India before December 2014 and thus have been living as refugees for more than 5 years.
It is against this provision that many political parties like Congress and CPI, many leftist bastions i.e. universities like JNU, Jamia and AMU have become the epicenters of revolt against CAA 2019, calling it discriminatory. They have resorted to violent agitations, while the government has responded with extreme caution and restraint. They have been demanding that all Muslims who are living in India, including those who have come as intruders/infiltrators, seeking economic opportunities from neighboring countries, should also be awarded citizenship. They have also been vocal in asking that India should neither have any account of its inhabitants nor of its citizens i.e. they are opposed to both NPR and NRC.
It is essential that the issue is examined in its historical perspective. Until 1945 both Hindus and Muslims were fighting against the British for the freedom of India from the British rule. However under the command of Jinnah, Muslim League floated the Two-nation theory in 1940 and demanded a separate state of Pakistan. Most of the Muslims supported this demand and refused to listen to liberals like Maulana Azad. After the failure of the Cabinet Mission, Jinnah raised the pitch for demand of a separate Islamic State and finally proclaimed 16th August 1946 as Direct Action Day. H. Shaheed Suhrawardy, Muslim League’s Chief Minister of Bengal, openly incited the Muslims to resort to violence against the Hindus. The kind of violence which ensued thereafter still makes anyone shudder.
Congress Leadership was initially very reluctant to accept the division of the country, but after watching the deep divide which had got created in the minds of majority of Muslims of united India, finally agreed to accept this division by accepting the 3rd June 1947 Mountbatten Plan. As per this Plan, a separate Dominion of Pakistan was carved out of India by including the Muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal and also including Sindh, Balochistan, and NWFP.
Unprecedented massive violence erupted thereafter. Five million Hindus and Sikhs out of a total of 5.9 millions (as per 1941 census) were either killed, got converted to Islam, or migrated to India in 1947 itself. As a result according to 1951 census, population of Non Muslim minorities got reduced to 3.44% in West Pakistan; it was 29% as per 1941 census in Muslim majority areas of undivided Punjab. Those left behind were mostly poor, under privileged and backward people who either did not have the means to migrate to India or misjudged the treatment which would be meted out to them by Muslim majority in West Pakistan. Non- Muslims left in East Pakistan (known as Bangladesh after 1971) were 23.20%. By 2011, the percentage of Non-Muslims (Mainly Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians) in Pakistan had got reduced to 1.8% and in Bangladesh it accounted for only 10.2% of population.
On the other hand, the total population of India in 1951 was about 36 Crores and in 2011 census it was 121 Crores. The population-share of Hindus and Sikhs in 1951 was 86% and those of Muslims 10% However, by 2011, the percentage of Hindus and Sikhs had got reduced to 81.5% and those of Muslims had increased to 14.5%. The reason is clear and unambiguous; Pakistan treated its minorities with cruelty and brutality whereas Hindus of India treated Muslim minorities equally with extra care and concern for their welfare added.
It is rather strange that the details of such horrendous carnage were and are mostly hidden from the people of India as the History as well as the English media scene in India was dominated generally by the Communists and they included most of those people of Muslim League who did not/could not shift to Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947. The tragedy is that even after the creation of Pakistan based on two Nation Theory, they still hung on to this two-nation theory probably hoping to carve another Pakistan out of present territory of India. That is why the protesters in Jamia, AMU, and Shaheen Bagh shouted slogans demanding ‘Jinnah-wali Azadi’.
In 2003, Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed an unambiguous opinion in Parliament saying that if minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh continue to face prosecution and if they are forced to flee, it would be the moral duty of Govt. of India to give them Indian citizenship and provide decent living.
In 2003, 107th Report of Committee on Home Affairs, Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2003 was submitted to Parliament recommending that Indian Citizenship should be granted to Pakistani and Bangla Deshi refugees belonging to minority communities and not to the refugees belonging to majority community i.e. Muslims. This Committee consisted of Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal, Hans Raj Bhardwaj, Moti Lal Vora and Ambika Soni. Were they all communal at that time? No, not at all! They were only recognizing the historical reality and India’s moral responsibility towards these persecuted religious minorities of those countries which were carved out of India as Islamic states.
Thus granting of citizenship under CAA, 2019 to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians minorities who are living as refugees for more than 5 years in India is only discharge of a moral obligation and fulfillment of a promise made at the time of partition which was thrust on these poor backward people by the top leadership, which suddenly accepted the creation of Pakistan.
I appeal to the conscience of all the Muslims of India to search their conscience and ask if any Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh could ever resort to the protests in the manner in which they have resorted to in India in Jamia, AMU and Shaheen Bagh etc.
(Author is former Member of CBDT)