Yesterday, the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill. This Bill, once it is cleared in the Rajya Sabha, eases a few provisions for religious minorities from three neighbouring countries to become citizens of our nation. It also exempts them from being termed as “illegal” entrants into this country. In its present form, the bill intends to provide these benefits to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Before we proceed to make a few comments on this bill, and the controversy it has generated, it is worth repeating and emphasizing that this particular bill is meant for minorities from our neighbouring countries. It is no way altering the equation with respect to our fellow countrymen who belong to religious minority communities. Therefore, all fears and apprehensions regarding the “future treatment” of our own minorities should be kept aside. The fear-mongering on this front should stop at once.
The most vociferous opposition to this bill, and its approach, has been that the Indian State is moving to “discriminate” based on the religion of people. That only a few particular religions have been called out in the bill, and that Muslims specifically have been left out.
It is very important for us to get the right perspective on this matter. The “discrimination” in this whole matter is not by the Indian State. The people to whom we are moving to grant easy citizenship are indeed being discriminated on the basis of religion – BUT – in our neighbourhood – across the border. The present bill tries to provide refuge to these victims of religious discrimination and indeed persecution.
If our neighbours stop persecuting their own citizens on the basis of religion, this bill becomes defunct. So let the secular outrage be directed at our neighbours.
Now, let us look at why it is appropriate that the ease of citizenship is granted only to adherents of few particular communities. As elaborated very nicely here and here, it is because the Bharatiya State has a civilizational responsibility towards people of these religious inclinations.
The Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs in our neighbourhood are paying a terrible price for not detaching their umbilical cord with India.
These minorities are not being persecuted in their own countries because they are more prosperous and happy than the majority in those countries. They are being persecuted because, in their desire for prosperity and happiness, they pray to Lakshmi, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Buddha and Mahaveera – Gods who roamed our land, Gods who are heroes of Bharata, Gods who are inseparable from India.
These minorities are not being persecuted in their own countries because they are more educated and read well when compared to their majority brethren. They are persecuted because when they study – they read the Vedas, the Puranas, the Buddhavachana, the Mahavira Agamas – scriptures which were composed over here, in our land, by holy men who belonged to our nation.
These minorities are not being persecuted in their own countries because they are taking away jobs from the majority. They are persecuted because they think it is their duty to celebrate the birth of Rama, Krishna – because they think it is their job to follow the wise words of the Buddha – because they think the teachings of Guru Nanak is worth risking their homes and lives.
These minorities are being persecuted because they refused to give up their connection with Bharata. Not even at the risk of losing their property, safety and even lives. They are being persecuted because somewhere in their DNA there is a connection with India, and they refuse to forget that!
The mountains of the Kandahar is where our ancient rishis meditated and realized thousands of our Vedic mantras. The plains of the West Punjab is where our most glorious river – the Indus – still flows. It is where our greatest ancient civilization once flourished. The minorities whom this bill focuses on tried their best to keep the flame of our civilization alive in those sacred lands.
In 1947, when our country was partitioned, our land may have shrunk – but our civilizational debt did not. Making it relatively easy for refugees of Indic identity to become citizens of this country is a small way of repaying the Runa to those lands which too was once our Pitrubhu.
Let there be no doubt that this bill is the right thing to do.
P.S: The bill also grants similar concession to people belonging to a couple of non-Indic faiths. I agree with the previously quoted articles that this is a fault in the bill. India has been, and will continue, to accept refugees from all faiths and grant them citizenship. This particular measure to ease the process should be focused on refugees belonging to Indic faith only. The bill, in its present, form can not be faulted at all for the intent it carries. There is however a deep flaw in terms of its wording and approach of not restricting the concession to Indic faith adherents. Without a clear declaration of the purpose, and a Constitutional amendment to Section 11 to back it, the bill stands on weak footing.