The Supreme Court recently pronounced its verdict on Shaheen Bagh, the site in Delhi where thousands of Muslim women and children had congregated for three months between December 2019 to March 2020 to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The verdict, stating that public places cannot be occupied indefinitely, has come in the midst of many anti-establishment voices clamouring for the continuation of Shaheen Bagh protests now that the lockdown is lifted.
As anti-CAA protests continue, it occurred to me that if someone is, for instance, a Jew at birth, then he is recognized as an Israeli and can become a citizen of Israel anytime, but unfortunately, Hindus born in foreign countries cannot get Indian citizenship that easily.
Above all, when the Parliament enacts laws like the CAA, anti-Indian groups protest. This is the hypocrisy of these groups who otherwise remain silent in the former case, perhaps and especially since the US remains Israel’s all-weather friend.
How is giving citizenship to all those who are persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who are the sons and daughters of India, who could not migrate to India during the Partition and who have been the victims of radical Islamist persecution over there, not secular?
These are relics of the Partition of India, and India must correct them. In fact, millions of Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis need shelter from radical Islamist elements and if the CAA is not implemented, then the rights of these hapless minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are likely to be curtailed.
Citizenship to Hindu and Sikh victims of the Partition was a commitment given by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress party in 1947 and which was finally fulfilled last year. Yet, ironically, it was the Congress Party and its allies which started the anti-CAA protests.
The CAA does not take away anyone’s citizenship. It does not concern anyone living in India. In the past, India has given citizenship to many Muslims fleeing the Taliban, a number of Baloch refugees, as well as many Rohingyas. They are required to go through the standard procedure that warrants for the said person to stay in India for a slated period of time.
All that the CAA states is that the persecuted (very specific) minorities would be provided with citizenship, either immediately or within a slated time which would be much less than the standard time. It does not bar the rest from seeking refuge and citizenship in India.
What India must do is help the distressed Ahmaddiyas, Sindhis and Balochs on the other side of the border. We must offer diplomatic, and at times, military help to these communities fighting for their rights and survival. However, it is not possible to offer citizenship, that too fast-tracked under the CAA or the likes, to a virtually unlimited number of these people. It is unfortunate, but it’s also true that India can’t be a haven for migrants and refugees from every other country in the world.
In a speech in Kolkata’s Belur Math on 12th January 2020, PM Narendra Modi explained very clearly that the CAA would not deprive anyone of their existing citizenship but instead, it would fast-track conferring citizenship on the persecuted minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Despite this, protests against the CAA continued.
The Prime Minister has categorically said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) won’t be implemented. Of course, many politicians will continue to play the trope of NRC for electoral purposes. However, we should understand that the Prime Minister is the supreme political leader of the country, and we must be assured that there will be no implementation of the NRC in this country once he has said so.
Further, when both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have said that they will not withdraw the CAA, continuing the anti-CAA protests has been rendered meaningless.
Appearing on a TV show, Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi admitted that he had once smashed a TV set when his daughter innocently performed an ‘aarti’ in front of it. The host laughed and the largely female audience cheered him for this act. When a celebrity like Shahid Afridi who is considered to be a moderate can behave in such a hostile manner towards the minorities living there, we can easily imagine the hellish conditions which radical Islamist preachers and people create for the common people among the minorities there on a daily basis.
This incident is a minor reflection of the kind of inhospitable conditions these minorities are subjected to; it is not a wonder that the population of the minorities in Pakistan came down from 23.2% in 1947 to just under 3%.
Sikhs who have been brought back from Afghanistan to India under the CAA have explained to the media the prosecution that that faced in the land they once called home. Hindus and Sikhs were once an 80,000-strong minority in Afghanistan, but they are now vanishing. According to a news report, there is merely one Hindu left in the Afghan town of Ghazni, with his family and all other Hindus and Sikhs having left the town for India.
This is one of the main reasons why the CAA becomes more important and why India must speed up the CAA process. For centuries Indians have sacrificed their lives in the effort to protect their temples, culture, and heritage from foreign invaders. They have sacrificed themselves for the sake of the integrity of their motherland, Bharat Mata. It is, then, India’s sacred duty to help them when their lives are in jeopardy and at the mercy of radical Islamists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. That is all that the CAA intends.
Sauro Dasgupta is pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. He is interested in reading, writing, public speaking and his writings have been published in many important magazines, journals and newspapers.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.