Hindus in Bangladesh, Pakistan to get Indian citizenship
The BJP-RSS government has taken a very tricky decision to provide the persecuted religious minorities, mainly the Hindus and Shikhs, who fled Muslim-dominated Bangladesh and Pakistan before December 31, 2014 with Indian citizenship.
The draft amendment to the Citizenship Act 1995 has already been finalized, and it will be placed before the cabinet soon, according to Indian media.
Observers think that even though India is currently under the lead of radical Hindus who are very much anti-Muslim, the citizenship scope will save the life of scores of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. At least they would not have to pass days in fear of attacks by neighboring Muslims.
It is seen as Modi government’s unambiguous desire to be seen as a protector of the Hindus facing adverse circumstances in these countries.
The move stands to benefit nearly 2,00,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh who often complain they were treated as “second-class citizens” and were vulnerable to violence. They have also often found themselves at the receiving end of blasphemy laws.
Moreover, the Hindus and other non-Muslim and non-Sunni communities in Bangladesh have been subjected to communal and targeted militant attacks for decades, and most of the cases do not see trial.
The Hindu population in Bangladesh has been declining since the partition of 1947, and it fell significantly due to the 1971 Liberation War.
The attacks did not stop after independence, rather intensified during the regimes of the military dictators who abolished secularism and introduced religion-based politics and state religion provision in the constitution.
Persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh got a boost after the radical Hindus in India demolished the Babri mosque in 1992. They faced mass level attacks – murders, rape, loot and arson – after the 2001 elections as the anti-Hindu groups were voted to power.
The incumbent Awami League-led government has not taken any step to try the perpetrators of the 2001 attacks, rather their men too are now grabbing the land of the Hindus across the country.
The government is also mum about the militant attacks on Hindus, attacks based on false allegation of blasphemy and the hate campaigns against them on Facebook and Islamist blogs – apparently due to the rising threat of Islamic Revolution now under way in Bangladesh by the religion-based parties and groups alongside the Islamic terrorist groups.
The decision to come to the aid of Hindu minorities, even while discouraging Muslim migrants driven by economic conditions from Bangladesh as “outsiders,” marks the government’s decision to consciously differentiate between types of migrants even if this attracts criticism of working to a Hindutva agenda, says Times of India.
The differentiation between those seeking refuge to escape political and religious persecution on one hand and those migrating for economic reasons is in accord with international norms and definition of who is a refugee. However, the distinction also fits in with the political agenda to amplify the message of India, as Sangh Parivar insists, being a natural home to Hindus of all sorts.
BJP promised citizenship to Hindu refugees in its manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Ever since it assumed office, the Modi regime has taken a series of measures to facilitate grant of long-term visas to such refugees until they can be granted citizenship. The government recently moved a proposal to further facilitate the stay of long-term visa holders by offering Aadhaar cards, driving license and PAN cards.
As per the proposed amendments to Citizenship Act, December 31, 2014 will be designated as the cut-off date for refugees to be eligible to apply for citizenship. Also, Section 2 (1)(b) of the Act will have a provision that will exempt such citizens from being deemed “illegal migrants,” The government is also looking at simultaneous amendments to the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and Foreigners Act, 1946.