India’s neighbours have persecuted minorities. It is time to give them justice
With the Lok Sabha passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and the Rajya Sabha scheduled to debate it on Wednesday, some basic facts are being obscured in the ensuing din. It is a well-known and widely accepted fact that Bharat (a term the Constitution recognises to refer to India), is a natural habitat for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhist and other religious minorities from our neighbouring countries. The three neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — have Muslim majorities. And so, by their very nature, they are Islamic.
When our country was partitioned in the name of religion in 1947, both Bharat and Pakistan had agreed to respect and protect their minorities. In 1947, a big chunk of Muslims who rejected the two-nation theory, propagated by the Muslim League based on the sentiments expressed by Sir Syed Ahmad in his speech in 1863, chose to stay on in Bharat. Similarly, a large number of Hindus, Sikhs and other religious minorities remained in Pakistan, and later, in Bangladesh.
According to various official reports and census data, the estimated number of minorities — Hindus and Sikhs — was around 12.9% in Pakistan at the time of Partition. It has been reduced to less than 1% today. The Hindus who constituted around 31% of the population in Bangladesh at the time of its creation have come down to only 8% today. A valid question to be asked to these countries is: Where are their ‘missing’ Hindus and other religious minorities?
The answer is clear. These minorities have either been converted, killed or have left these countries for safer places — mostly India. The persecution of these communities, which has, at times, taken the form of pogroms, has continued almost relentlessly in these countries. The political and social leadership of Bharat has been justifiably worried about this, and this cuts across party lines.
In 1947, there was extensive migration. Around 14 to 16 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were forced to leave their homes and flee to safety zones. In the same period, over 600,000 of them were killed. The manner of killing was brutal.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on September 2, 1947, “From morning till night these days , my time is here fully occupied with the talks of woes and atrocities which reach me through Hindu and Sikh refugees from all over western Pakistan.”
After the killings, the proportion of Hindu holding properties in Pakistan fell to 12.7%. Nearly 90% of the Hindu citizens of Dhaka migrated to Bharat. This was also the case with the student population of Dhaka.
In 1971, the Pakistan military started a genocide in what was then Dacca. Hindus were particularly targeted. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told the Lok Sabha on May 24,1971, “So massive a migration, in so short a time, is unprecedented in recorded history. About three and a half million people have come into India from Bangladesh during the last eight weeks.” Unfortunately, the situation didn’t change much even after Bangladesh was formed.
This persecution persisted both to India’s east and west. Eduardo Falerio, minister of state for external affairs, told the Rajya Sabha on July 28, 1987, “Reports emanating from Pakistan in May-June 1987 indicate that there have been attacks on Hindu temples as well as shops and properties belonging to the Hindu community in Sindh”.
On April 20, 2012, the then chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, gave a memorandum to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It demanded that “the persecuted Hindus on the basis of religion from Bangladesh should not be treated as foreigners”.
Despite various Congress governments making this demand, nothing was done on the ground on this issue.
In 2012, three Hindu doctors were killed and one injured when attacked in their village in the Chak taluka in Shikarpur district in Pakistan. From the time Hakikat Rai, a 14-year-old boy from Sialkot was killed for the alleged crime of blasphemy in the 18th century, to Rinkle Kumari from Ghotki, Sindh or Asia bibi, the persecution has never let up. The fall of the iconic Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 in Afghanistan and the exodus of Sikhs from that country are evidence of the status of minorities there.
Incidentally, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been raising this issue time and again and pressing successive governments to do the needful. The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha or the national executive, the highest decision-making body of the RSS have passed various resolutions, starting from 1964 about the condition and rehabilitation of persecuted minorities from Pakistan, both east and west, and later on Bangladesh. The resolutions were passed in 1964, 1978, 1993, 1994, 2002 and 2013.
This persecution of the Hindus and other religious minorities is what necessitated the introduction of CAB. If this bill becomes legislation, it would provide a long overdue relief to non-Muslim refugees from these countries. Their suffering has to end.