India Has Ripped Off Its Secular Guise, Revealing The Saffron Beneath It
In my previous piece I addressed the fact that Pakistan’s citizenship and naturalization law is not based on religion. It is important to bear this in mind when discussing the Indian equivalent, especially in light of India’s claim to be a secular state. Through this piece I will show that not only is India’s proposed new amendment to the Citizenship Act communal in nature but also takes off the thin veneer of secularism that was already in tatters.
What the bill states is this:
Provided that any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government by or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made thereunder, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act
None of these persons have to be “persecuted” per se to qualify. As long as they are not Muslim or do not identify as Muslim, they are to be treated legal migrants. It is to be read with the new addition in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act 1955 which reads:
Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as “not less than five years” in place of “not less than eleven years.”
Exclusion thus is created for Muslim citizens of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is as inconsistent with the secular principle as can be and essentially plays into the narrative that Muslims can never be loyal citizens of India organically.
The real reason it has been done is to weed out those Muslims from Bangladesh who have moved to India and have settled in areas on the India Bangladesh border.
This is not the first time that India has shown this inconsistency with its stated secular principle. In 1947 the Congress Party insisted on and succeeded in partitioning Punjab and Bengal on the basis of an entirely distorted version of the Two Nation Theory, despite having denounced the Two Nation Theory as being wholly artificial and unreal. It is, of course, a searing irony that Pakistan never subjected citizenship to the Two Nation Theory, just as Pakistan had opposed the partition of Punjab and Bengal on religious grounds. The nuance here is enough to boggle any mind.
The point is that India, and indeed its founding party Congress, have been soft-Hindutva since Gandhi’s ascendancy in politics. For all of Congress’ shrill accusations against BJP about unveiling Ram Rajya, both the slogan of Ram Rajya and cow slaughter was first raised by none other than Gandhi himself. BJP really has just taken off the mask.
What BJP proposes is extremely sinister and way beyond what Congress could have imagined. Through this law it will legitimize Bengali Hindu migrations from Bangladesh but make Muslim immigrants illegal. Then will come the National Register on which every citizen will be required to enter their information. Through this process India will then target Muslims, both of Indian origin and otherwise as being Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Afghan and deport them. The eventual objective is to reduce the Muslim population or to make it grovel, asking them to prove their antecedents. It is ethnic cleansing pure and simple. An example of this India’s actions against Rohingya refugees who the Government of India wants to deport. That is the stated policy and there is litigation under way on this count.
Here it must be stated, without the fear of contradiction, that we in Pakistan at least, are in no position to point fingers at India, despite our fine Citizenship Act of 1951.
Facts are that Pakistan today is a theocratic state that privileges Muslims above all else and which bars non-Muslims from becoming president or prime minister. The persecution of Ahmadis is another example of outright state sponsored bigotry.
Both Pakistan and India are badly majoritarian states which have long perpetrated heinous crimes against their minorities. If we are to raise our voice against the recent Indian actions, it will be a case of pot calling kettle black.
The writer is a lawyer and commentator. He is also the author of the book ‘Jinnah: Myth and Reality’.