A widespread and unseemly controversy has damaged out in India over the Citizenship Modification Act handed by the Indian Parliament in December 2019 that quick tracks Indian citizenship for persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi faiths. This brings closure to a tragic and messy legacy of the Partition of India in 1947 when the brand new, expressly Muslim, state of Pakistan was carved out of India. There have been widespread bloodshed and killings in each India and Pakistan as thousands and thousands of Hindus and Sikhs migrated from Punjab, Sindh and Northwest Frontier Province of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) to India, and Muslims, largely from Punjab, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in India migrated to West Pakistan. Many Hindus and Sikhs residing in Afghanistan additionally migrated to India since there was an open, undefined border and free motion of individuals between Afghanistan and undivided India. Nevertheless, the alternate of populations was not complete. Some selected to not migrate, others simply couldn’t handle to take action. On the India-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) border, though the Partition was much less violent and bloody, there was a gradual influx of Hindu refugees into India from East Pakistan/Bangladesh during the last seven many years.
Spiritual minorities have suffered enormously in Pakistan, and to a lesser extent in Bangladesh (until not too long ago), in addition to in Afghanistan. All three international locations are immediately formally Islamic states the place Muslims get pleasure from particular rights and privileges, whereas minorities proceed to be discriminated towards, humiliated and persecuted. Many have been forcibly transformed to Islam. Ladies belonging to the minority communities have been raped, kidnapped, and compelled into marriage with Muslims. Tons of of Hindu and Sikh temples have been destroyed or allowed to fall into spoil. Consequently, the share of minorities in these three international locations has come down drastically. Hundreds of individuals belonging to those persecuted minorities have sought refuge in India, and have been given, on an advert hoc foundation, Indian citizenship. The brand new legislation merely formalizes this course of in order that the refugees languishing right here could be given Indian citizenship that will allow them to safe admissions in instructional establishments, get jobs, purchase property, get pleasure from state welfare advantages and thereby have a safer and dignified life. That is additionally India’s ethical obligation, one which has been publicly articulated by leaders of all political events over the many years, together with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh refugee from Pakistan.
Why then such a brouhaha? Many Indian opposition events, annoyed at being out of energy, have intentionally distorted this difficulty and stoked an argument, spreading imaginary fears amongst Muslims in India that they’d be disadvantaged of their citizenship, although the brand new legislation has no influence on or relevance to those that are already Indian residents, no matter their faith. These events, with an eye fixed on their conventional, however weakening, Muslim vote financial institution that depends on creating insecurity amongst Muslims, proceed to mischievously and irresponsibly conflate the Citizenship Modification Act with a proposed Nationwide Register of Residents, although Prime Minister Modi has clearly and emphatically declared publicly that the method of getting a Nationwide Register of Residents is not going to be initiated with out widespread consultations.
Fears that India would now not stay a pluralistic society are unwarranted. There may be sturdy and widespread public assist for an India the place folks belonging to all religions and communities really feel safe and usually are not discriminated towards. India has particular authorized and constitutional provisions to guard all minorities together with Muslims (whose share in India’s complete inhabitants has steadily risen). It must be plainly and unequivocally acknowledged: Indian Muslims are an integral a part of India’s society and India is their house. India is proud that among the greatest Bollywood stars and sports activities icons are Muslim, as are many profitable and affluent enterprise and trade leaders. We even have proud and patriotic Muslim troopers and generals, clever and truthful Muslim judges, environment friendly and dedicated Muslim officers and policemen, good and revered Muslim scientists and engineers. All sects of Islam can and do peaceably comply with their non secular practices in India. Minorities, together with Muslims, handle their very own locations of worship and establishments, and may have their very own instructional establishments the place their kids are taught about their religions. No matter growth work is being finished – roads, water provide, fuel connections, housing, bogs, schooling, well being and so forth. – will not be focused to favour any specific neighborhood.
India stays a sturdy democracy, the place the Structure is supreme. There may be ample room for debate and opposition, and a longtime authorized and judicial course of for redressal of grievances. Whereas peaceable protest is appropriate, violence will not be. Folks must be held accountable in the event that they destroy public property and assault police personnel and establishments. Everybody should respect the establishment and authority of Parliament. Avenue mobs and political rhetoric can’t undo legal guidelines which were duly legislated by Parliament after an open debate. Nor can state governments and legislatures defy legal guidelines that, below the Indian Structure, are the remit of Parliament. One hopes that every one political events will act responsibly and channelize public opinion in a constructive route.
(Rajiv Sikri is the previous Indian Ambassador to Kazakhstan and former Secretary, Ministry of Exterior Affairs. This text was supplied by the Indian Consulate Basic’s Workplace in San Francisco, Calif.)