“I want to make a provision that every person who is a Hindu or a Sikh and is not a citizen of any other State shall be entitled to be a citizen of India. We have seen the formation and establishment of Pakistan. Why was it established? It was established because the Muslims claimed that they must have a home of their own and a country of their own… by the mere fact that he is a Hindu or a Sikh, he should get Indian citizenship because it is this one circumstance that makes him disliked by others. But we are a secular State and do not want to recognize the fact that every Hindu or Sikh in any part of the world should have a home of his own. If the Muslims want an exclusive place for themselves called Pakistan, why should not Hindus and Sikhs have India as their home? We are not debarring others from getting citizenship here.”– Sri P.D. Deshmukh, Constituent Assembly debate, 11th of August, 1949. India.
This was the argument made by Sri P. D. Deshmukh in the debate on Indian citizenship in the constituent assembly debate, what was to eventually give birth to the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955. However, the fears of Sri Deshmukh largely remained unaddressed under the influence of baseless buoyancy of Nehru-Liyaquat Pact of 8th of April 1950 and looney optimism of leftist minds prevalent in the policymaking circles.
The Nehru- Liaquat pact, also known as Delhi Pact attempted to address the issue of Refugees moving across the newly-constructed and largely fluid borders. The pact promised near-secular safeguarding of rights of the minority in India, East and West Pakistan. While the secular constitution of India kept its part of the promise, it was odd for India to have believed the applicability of the same in the freshly-created land of fanatic faith. Liaquat Ali Khan who signed the Delhi Pact with Nehru assuring safeguarding the minorities (Hindus, Sikhs and Christians) in his new nation was the framer of Objective resolutions which proudly proclaimed Pakistan to be a theocratic Islamic state. These Objective resolutions became the unalterable foundation for the multiple iterations of the Constitution which came about in Pakistan, each more orthodox and anti-minority than the previous one.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, which came into existence after huge atrocities on Bengalis by the Pakistanis, also soon after formation had Islam as the state religion. At the time of its formation, with Indian assistance, Bangladesh had Secularism as one of the four tenets of its constitution. However, the reference to the term ‘secularism’ was removed from the Constitution of Bangladesh in 1980 and Islam declared as the state religion.
In 2010, Secularism as a term was re-introduced into the constitution, but the state remains Islamic. While the situation for minorities is marginally better in Bangladesh than Pakistan, the fact remains that Hindus who made up for around 24% of Population in 1947, are now only 9.5%. The inconsistency of a state taking an avowed theocratic position and still struggling with secular pretence shows in the declining number of Hindus in Bangladesh. This is something Bengali Leader Sirish Chandra Chattopadhyay from Dhaka in then Pakistan had pointed out in March 1949, when opposing Liaquat Ali Khan’s Objective Resolutions. He had said in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan,
“The words ‘equal rights as enunciated by Islam’ are a camouflage. It is only a hoax to us, the non-Muslims. There cannot be equal rights as enunciated by Islam.”
The effect of this was apart from widespread persecution of non-Muslims in the nations created for the Muslims, a constant, bleeding flow of minorities to India, the place which remained secular after Muslims carved a nation for Muslims by cutting its wings. The concept of migrants in the Citizenship Act pertains to the erstwhile India, which suddenly turned hostile to the non-Muslim minorities after 1947. The above passage gives a fair idea as to why.
The newly proposed amendment refers to only those nations. There are fallacious and near-absurd arguments are being made as to why persecuted people in Myanmar or Burma are not taken into the account.
The proposed amendment refers to the migrants of three countries, namely- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The religious denominations it covers are Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains. Why it refers to the three nations is because the three nations are in a way part of bloody history of partition, and the three represented a syncretic culture having people of all faiths before Partition to create a brazenly religious state, resulting in persecution of minorities, reducing their percentage into single digit in all the three states. These are the three nations which were impacted with the sudden human transfer, which continues till date. To look forward into the future, it is important that the half-shut door of the past is totally closed. This is why the amendment only looks at these three nations, not at Syria or Croatia.
This amendment reduces the period of neutralization from 6 to 5 years (was reduced from 11 years to 6 in the 2015 amendment). The act also takes away the criminality from the refugees escaping the worst of hardships under a theocratic Islamic state where without declaring adherence to the Islamic faith, one might not even get a passport.
Another argument being made is that this is a furtherance to the Two-Nation theory which now Veer Savarkar is being charged to have first conceptualized. While the charge largely ignores the fact that the amendment bill refers to the foreigners illegally entering India, not to existing Indian citizens, irrespective of their caste and creed, this also is far from the truth.
The ideas of Hindus and Muslims as two different nations had been floating around for a much longer time. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan declared Hindus and Muslims to be two nations in the 1880s much before Savarkar came into the picture. In fact, in the older, pre-Gandhi days, before fanatic secularism spread its wings over Indian polity, Hindus and Muslims were quite honest about the difference in their faith and appreciative of it. As Dr Rajendra Prasad writes in his book ‘India Divided’ that before 1906-07, before the Gandhian ideology of super communal nationalism, everybody was frankly a Hindu or Muslim, and communalism had not yet become a term of abuse, and the Hindus and Musalmans could afford to deal with their rivals with courtesy, tolerance and sympathetic understanding.
When Gandhi entered as an international celebrity with a little local base in India, the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha both were important political forces. Unfortunately, post-independence, very little has been written, taught and talked about this period when Congress was less of a party and more of an annual convention, where many parties would come together. Struggling to find his space in the political scenario dominated by stalwarts like Tilak, BC Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, Gandhi offered a path of moderate opposition to the freedom movement and at the same time, supported hardliners among the Muslims. From a known and acknowledged difference in faiths, the blatant appeasement of the Muslims in the name of secularism converted the position of the two faiths incompatible to an idea of co-existence.
It was Gandhi with his support for Khilafat and later, his anointment of Jinnah as leader of the Muslims paved the ground for Partition, building on the inherent unwillingness of the hardliners among Muslims to explore a possible co-existence. By 1944, writes Maulana Azad in his autobiography, India Wins Freedom, a larger-than-life image of Jinnah as Qaid-i- Azamwas created courtesy Gandhi as the best man for getting advantageous terms in the communal settlement. He writes that It was largely due to Gandhiji’s act of commission and omission that Mr Jinnah regained his importance in Indian political life.
This cover-up primarily with an intent to keep the blame of partition away from the Congress which came into power around the time of Indian independence. It did, however, serve another purpose which was to burden the sensitive Hindu soul with guilt for one of the greatest human tragedy of the century in which they lost the land which was historically a Hindu land in civilizational perspective. The Islamic forces which invaded the cradle of Rigveda after 200 years of struggle, managed to wriggle away with Afghanistan and Pakistan as Islamic states. When we look at the historic blunder that it was, which took away not only the origin of Hinduism, rather also the origin of Sikhism, it is totally confounding that Hindus who remained in India, having lost a major chunk of land which historically belonged to then, were sold a narrative were being a majority, they needed to always be embarrassed for the Partition.
This embarrassment reflected in the hesitation to reclaim the root symbols of Hinduism which emerged out of a minority Islamic rule of 500 years and Christian rule of around 300 Years. Even a legal and just win of the birthplace of Ram in Ayodhya after almost a century of the legal battle was received by Hindus with an unmistakable silence of embarrassment. Coming to the subject, it was largely fed to us that Partition did not happen due to the unwillingness of the Muslims to live in a secular state with a Hindu majority, rather it happened due to the Hindu leadership in 1947 which was portrayed as unyielding and unaccommodating to the majority. It defeats all the reasons if one were to ignore the documented history that the arrogant and adamant Hindu leadership became suddenly so pliant on 16th of August 1947 that they decided to make India a secular state, while the liberal, modern Muslim leadership blatantly defined Pakistan as an Islamic state.
This clever game of chess left Hindu leadership so out of balance that the charge began to appear almost real. It was not done at one go, it was slow indoctrination of the masses. Nehru in his life and later never understood the deep link of religious linkage of India as a nation of the present with its past. Barney White-Spinner in his book ‘Partition’ writes that Nehru’s problem, as a highly educated, well-travelled socialist, was that he thought religion was irrelevant.
Nehru in a TV interview, in fact, conceded that he did agree to partition because he felt that Muslim leadership belonged to land-owning class and will never accept land reforms. History is complex and must be read with an appreciation of the complexity which is inherent in the reading of the past. It needs to be understood that while Muslim leadership of the time tried to establish a link of loyalty between Indian Muslim and global Islamic brotherhood, Hindu leadership, on the other hand, stressed on the oneness, common roots of Indian Muslims with the Hindus.
The two-nation theory was not Savarkar’s brainchild. It was in play when Ahmad Shah Abdali was invited by Wahabi cleric Shah Walihuallah in 1761 to save Islamic supremacy from Hindu upsurge, when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan spoke about Hindus and Muslims being two nations in 1888 and when Jinnah brought it back to the political discourse achieving, in effect, the balkanization of India with the threat of violence. Savarkar, an acute political observer, merely saw this early when he wrote referring to the Congress that “The territorial patriots wanted Hindus to cease to be Hindus at least as a national and political unit. Some of them even gloried in disowning themselves as Hindus at all but the Moslems remained Moslems first and Moslems last. Even Gokhale, one of the most moderates of Congress wrote that Seventy Millions of Mohammedans are more or less hostile to the national aspirations (Namdar Gopal Krishna GokhalebyProf. S. R. Parasnis). Hinduism (and Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism) however, were native religion and there was no conflict between a religious and national identity.
The stauncher Hindu one became, the more strident a nationalist one turned into. While Savarkar opposed the majority to be subservient to the minorities, his vision of India was truly secular (Savarkar and his times, Dhananjay Keer, 1950). He on record praised the resolution of Azad Muslim Conference in April 1940 opposing partition. However, when Rajaji as Congress leader came out supporting the demand for Pakistan in return for the support of the Muslims to the National Government, Savarkar was aghast and wrote that “even the Congressite leaders like SriRajaji should fail to perceive that the two terms ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Indian National Government’ were in themselves self-contradictory and self-destructive…and how typical it was of the Congressite conception of National Unity that such eminent leaders like Rajaji should have given open assurance to the Muslims regarding Pakistan long before the British could dare to do so.
Much has been spoken about Savarkar in an absolutely derogatory manner by the political leaders who, having lost the faith of Indian people, have started to run their political strategies from the foreign shores. The fact remains that till the very end, Savarkar remained a votary of United India and he considered that to imagine an India without her Muslims will be stupidity. His advice to Indian Muslims was that to ensure safety, peace and prosperity they must get themselves incorporated wholeheartedly and loyally to an Indian nation.. adding further that If they come, with them, if they do not without them; but if they oppose, in spite of them, the Hindus are determined to continue a good fight for the freedom and integrity of Hindustan.
On July 26, 1941, in Pune in the second session of the Sapru conference, Savarkar got the resolution of United India passed. In 1942, during his meeting with Cripps Commission, Savarkar responded on the rights of states to secede from the union, “To the Hindus, it is an article of faith that India, their motherland and Holyland, is a cultural and national unit undivided and indivisible.”Savarkar came out of the interview with a proclamation, “We shall fight out Pakistan to our last.” While Hindu Mahasabha was the first political entity to reject the proposal of Cripps Commission, primarily because of self-determination and secession clause. Congress in their resolution in April 1942 accepted the same. It was only four years later that Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya admitted that “it is evident that the passage concedes the division of India into more than one State and gives the go-by to the unity and integrity of India.” (History of the Indian National Congress, Vol II).
As the Islamic State of Pakistan came by, Hindu refugees moving to India faced a hostile and violent secular state which infatuated by its own designs kept them as people without a state. We must understand that the misfortune which befell on them was not of their doing as explained adequately by Sri PD Deshmukh in his CA debate, with which we started. Those who created a state based on religion, ignoring the forewarnings of people like Savarkar, left them on their own. It is wise, benevolent and becoming for a nation like India which has been melting pot for all the persecuted people since time immemorial to offer to the people who have been driven away from the cradle of their own faith, by fanatics who annexed that land.
Jinnah did with cruel diplomacy what was earlier done by Mohammad Bin Kasim with an unsheathed sword. Today Imran Khan is shedding tears on a bill passed in India and his own nation refuses passport to anyone who refuses to swear allegiance to Islam. There cannot be a worse irony. The opposition will hail him as the saviour of secularism, but then, it needs to be called out that the bill as it stands, does not leave ‘our’ Muslims out in any way. Propaganda continues as it will, but it is our responsibility to pass the correct information to our people, Hindus or Muslims.
It is not only apt, but it is also necessary that Indian state comes to the rescue of our own people left stranded in a hostile land. As regarding the non-inclusion of Muslims of the three named Islamic state, the demand defies logic since India was vivisected on the demands of the Islamic nation and on the ground that those who migrated decided that they cannot live in a secular, Hindu-majority state. With the creation of Pakistan, we lost size, stature and history. We cannot suffer from a stupid idea and then later be made to pay for having listened and agreed to it.
In India, while the applicability of the Amendment does not hold, the fact remains that it, in effect, offers a refuge to the persecuted men and women of Indigenous religions. Now Natives have a place to call their own. This second term of Narendra Modi will be known to the posterity for correcting many historic wrongs. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 is one of those historic decisions for which Narendra Modi will forever be remembered as a defender of civilizational ethos, in and around India.