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For seven decades now, the Pakistani establishment has had one mantra: “Kashmir is just one unfinished business of Partition. You settle that, and we (Pakistan and India) could live as friends, just like Canada and the US.”

The consistent Indian response has also been a mantra: Partition was final, and is over. Only fools or suicidal revanchists would talk of reopening that wound.

That script is now changing on the Indian side. Over the past several days, we have heard many defenders of the latest amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, or the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB), hark back to Partition. And while they do not use the expression “unfinished business”, they leave nothing to chance by using expressions like full justice, closure, fair deal to non-Muslim minorities. The CAB, they assert, only redeems the promise implicit to the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

What that promise was, however, is debatable. There is no doubt that Pakistan was imagined, fought for, and achieved as a ‘homeland’ for the Subcontinent’s Muslims. It did not, however, follow that India could no longer be their home.

It is also true that there was an extensive exchange of population on religious grounds, and it was bloodied and embittered by massacres and rapes. In a couple of years, however, on the western side, this exchange was over and almost complete. Very few, if any, Muslims remained in Indian Punjab, or Hindus and Sikhs on the Pakistani side.

Some trickles did continue until the mid-1960s. Cricketer Asif Iqbal, for example, who captained Pakistan, migrated only in 1961. Until then, he was playing in the Hyderabad team which was later captained by Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi. There was a minor surge in the wake of the 1965 war, and then it ended.

The picture in the east was quite different.

For a variety of complex reasons, the exchange of population between what was then East Pakistan and India’s West Bengal, Assam and Tripura was far from complete. Large sections of Bengali Muslims stayed back in India, as did Hindus in East Bengal (Pakistan). But bouts of riots continued, each followed by tit-for-tat exoduses from either side.

It was to stop this that, in 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart Liaquat Ali Khan signed a detailed agreement of great clarity, known to history as the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. You can read the text here. The pact rested on five essential pillars:

1. Both countries commit to not only protect their minorities but to give them all the rights and freedoms, including in government jobs, politics and armed forces.

2. Those who have been displaced/migrated temporarily because of the riots and want to return to their homes will be given due facilitation and protection.

3. Those who did not want to return will be accepted as citizens like any other ‘migrants’.

4. There will, meanwhile, be freedom of movement on both sides and those who still want to migrate will be given protection and help.

5. Both sides will sincerely try to restore order, so people feel secure enough to stay put.

It was following this that India carried out an enumeration and built the first (and so far the last) National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 1951.

In the CAB debate, we often hear BJP leaders refer to the Nehru-Liaquat Pact to argue that while India kept its part of the commitments, Pakistan didn’t. It is difficult to argue with this. Population data shows that while in India, the overall population of Muslims has risen, even at a rate marginally higher than that of the Hindus and Sikhs, the population of minorities has declined steeply in what was East and West Pakistan. It is a safe conclusion that the minorities have continued to leave Pakistan (and, later, probably Bangladesh for some time) and settle in India.

Here is, therefore, the reason why the BJP now calls the CAB its answer to what it sees as the unfinished business of Partition: Pakistan didn’t keep its commitments under the Nehru-Liaquat Pact and, by implication, India became the natural home of minorities still being persecuted there. And there is no reason why a Muslim should feel persecuted for her religion in Islamic states.

Then, we start running into complications. First, because Jinnah’s two-nation theory is not what India’s founders wanted their secular republic to be. Second, at which point does old history end, and the new one begin? And third, is national synonymous with indigenous; or does religion equal ethnicity and language?


Also read: What is 6th Schedule & why it allows parts of Northeast to be exempt from citizenship bill


Since we raised the question of old and new history, it might be necessary for us to go back a few decades to understand the nature and complexity of migration in the east, especially Assam.

Assam was relatively much less densely populated and had endless, empty expanses of vast, fertile lands with plenty of water. This led to an early wave of migration from East Bengal in the 20th Century. A bulk of these were economic migrants, in search of land and a living. Probably the first person to use the expression ‘invasion’ for this was the British Superintendent of Census Operations in Assam in 1931, C.S. Mullan.

“Probably the most important event in the province during the last 25 years…which seems likely to alter permanently the whole future of Assam and to destroy the whole culture of Assamese culture (sic) and civilisation — has been invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry immigrants, mostly Muslims, from the districts of East Bengal and, in particular, from Mymensingh,” he wrote. He then concluded with a dark flourish: “Wheresoever the carcass, there the vultures will be gathered together. Where there is a wasteland, thither flock the Mymensinghias.” This is how far back the Assamese people’s ethnic and linguistic anxieties go.

If the Muslim economic migration became an issue in Assam so early on, Hindus were added to it after Partition. While the pre-1947 Muslims (Mullan’s Mymensinghias) mostly stayed on, hordes of persecuted Hindus streamed in, changing the ethnic balance of the entire region.

It is the nub of the problem, and one of the main reasons why this CAB fails to answer Assam’s anxieties. The overriding concern there hasn’t been religion but ethnicity, culture, language and political power. The RSS and BJP have tried to change this over the past three decades and I have written about this. Muslim migrants are mostly old, pre-Partition and can’t be denied citizenship. Bengali Hindus are more recent. Which explains why more than 60 per cent of the 19 lakh still disqualified in the NRC process are non-Muslim.

This is where the BJP catches itself in a deadly contradiction. If it applies any principle of citizenship (25 March 1971 as the cut-off year, as agreed between Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman, and accepted in the Assam Accord), it nets more Hindus than Muslims. If it goes further back, how far can it go: 1931? 1911?

The BJP has now tried resolving this with this latest CAB. The Assamese would not readily accept it, and the idea of protecting the Sixth Schedule tribal states and districts of Assam is too clever by half, as it would mean the ethnic Assamese accepting an even greater share of Bengali Hindus.

In the normal course, we would be tempted to invoke Sir Walter Scott here for the BJP: Oh, what a tangled web we weave/when first we practice to deceive. But, there is a twist. The BJP also knows that the CAB, combined with a fresh nationwide NRC process, is an idea that’s dead-on-arrival. Where it lives on, however, is as a divisive, polarising instrument, as its rivals have to take a position against it and thereby be exposed to the charge of “Muslim appeasement” again. It could then be the Ram Mandir or Article 370 of the next three decades.


Also read: Economy to Citizenship Bill – Accusations pile on PM Modi, but he could not care less


 

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30 Comments Share Your Views

30 COMMENTS

  1. You do not have a simple sense about the fact that muslim population has been increasing all over the world, so did in Pakistan. According to BBC report 2018; Islam will be the biggest religion by 2050,. Secondly, people reverting towards islam by their own will. As Quran says a forced convert can not be considered as muslim, unless he/she accept it by heart and in his full senses. For Example ; a week ago a canadian traveller Rosie Gabrielle who was travelling in Pakistan on bike has reverted to islam after meeting and dealing with muslims in Pakistan. So leave this farce rhetoric that Pakistani minorities are diminishing due to forced conversions.They are free to choose a religion which they consider better than that they already had.

    • I find it tad difficult to believe that Mohammedans across the globe, including Pakistan, abide by the stipulations outlined in the noble Qur’an. As far as the growing popularity of Islam is concerned, I say “good for you sir”. Am sure that if a White man from Canada has found it in his heart to embrace Islam, no further testament to the religion’s psycho-spiritual superiority is warranted. Pakistan as a nation has always cherished democracy and celebrated individual differences. Globally, the country is considered a shinning beacon of women empowerment and robust governance. May the citizens of that great nation realise the same and remain confined within their sovereign.

  2. India and Pakistan “could live as friends, just like Canada and the US”: this cracked me up good. If it ever came to that, our relationship with the “friendly” neighbour would be more along the lines of the US-Mexico dictum. And sure, let our borders be open to a terrorist infested nation, let the aspirations of our priveleged youth finance their potential drug cartels, and let our streets run rife with unregistered immigrants intent on bombing our hotels, hijacking our planes, and massacring the underserved men and women. While this all takes place, let the educated youth of this glorious nation document “facts” and argue for it all to happen from the safety of their bungalows. After all, we being a nation of prosperous people sans proclivities can surely afford a conundrum or two.

    • Do you think all that you mentioned above is not happening in India? see your burning streets right now, see vigilantes slaughtering people to save cow slaughtering, see your rape index, see your ranking in women safety index .

  3. All said and done, the simple fact is that India is the land of the Hindus. If the Hindu civilization were to survive, certain safeguards must be put in place so that the fate of the Jews does not befall the Hindus in the future – persecuted and driven off from their homeland. You can make your pious statements all day long – because your bread depends on it. But the reality is that India must take steps to ensure that the population remains overwhelmingly Hindu. Otherwise, it is just a matter of a couple of hundred years before the relentless conversion onslaught from the Vatican, USA and the Saudi Arabia will render the Hindus a minority in India and then they will be finished off quickly after that. So, stop being naive and wake up to the harsh reality that awaits your great grandchildren unless we take corrective steps now. It is possible that you may not care about the continuation of the Hindu civilization and the fate of your posterity; but some of us do and we will fight to preserve this land and its Hindu heritage.

    • We had muslim rule in this country for a thousand years.Did hinduism vanish from this country?? That too this was the time when there was monarchy ruling on this land and all sorts cruel and worst kind of men ruling us..we did not vanish and we continued to flourish and so shall we in the future..the kind of thinking you possess is really sub standard..i would suggest you to open your mind and see things more clearly..hatred cant never be a solution.. it never has been nor it can be..with the nation wise nrc looming around and now that the cab has been passed think when they introduce nation wise nrc..all the people from every religion will get citizenship even if they are immigrants and muslims will be left out and the most disturbing thing is those muslims who have been genuene citizens of india but lacks documents will now be made stateless..thats the strategy bjp is planning on..and i say this to you with firm belief that they will go for a nation wise nrc..thats no joke

  4. My summary of the CAB Amendment:
    a) This bill will allow all non-muslims who have entered India on or before 31/12/2014 to become citizens of India immediately. They have to only apply for citizenship. This is direclty in contradiction with the Assam Accord and with the NRC Rules, both of which have 31/3/1971 as the cut-off date. A change in a Rule, notified by a Govt. order, without seeking Parliament’s approval, can allow all non-muslims entering even after 31/12/2014 to become citizens of India.
    b) The enabling clause in the Rules referred to in the amendment to the bill mentions that this will apply only to “Persons belonging to minority communities in [Afghanistan, Bangladesh] and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution and entered into India on or before the 31st December, 2014”. Note that mere “fear of religious persecution” is enough! Further, in the forms in Citizenship Rules (amended in december 2016) using one of which one has to apply for citizenship, the only question being asked is “Do you belong to one of the minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians?”. No question about were you religiously persecuted or feared persecution!!! So you see this persecution business is a sham!
    c) The Amendment goes against Article 14 of the Constitution. Article 14 states:
    14. The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
    This implies that there can be no law which denies to any person equality before the law. Since this amendment will create a law which will not apply to muslims, muslims will be denied equality before law when this law is applied. Please note this article is not about citizens (there are many Articles on citizen rights and freedoms, and where discrimination for reservations is allowed). In fact this Article is part of the “Fundamental Rights” and Article 13(2) which is also a part, states :
    (2) The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.

  5. Pakistan was never imagined as a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. (If it were more land would have had to be demanded). It was perceived as a haven for Muslims from possible persecution by the majority animated by centuries old imagined indignities and complaints of an atavistic nature. The idea of Pakistan only firmed up in reaction to the failure by Congress to countenance a truly federal structure or considerable autonomy for Bengal and Punjab. On the other hand India was conceived as a home for both the majority and the minorities (including Muslims) of the then India. And that idea still lives on in the concept of Akhand Bharat being the home of all the ‘santans of the Bharat Mata’. I recommend that all Indians should read the books by Joya Chatterji, particularly the one titled Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-1947, if they want to know the truth.

  6. The BJP’s gameplan is to keep the common man’s eye glued to some kaleidoscope or other so he does not see the reality.
    This NRC thing is going to prove egg in Modi-Shah’s face. As BJP’s graph goes down, and consequently the opposition feels emboldened, there will be calls to BOYCOTT the NRC rigmarole. Deadlines will keep getting extended. Salary bill of people employed to man NRC infrastructure will keep increasing, state governments will stop paying those bills… And so on and so forth. These two gentlemen are in for ignominy.

  7. This article is ful of lies.
    The Hindu , Sikh population of W Pakisan in 1947 was 22% of population in the territories that make W Pakistan.
    The Hindu population in East Pakistan was 31% of the population of East Pakistan.

    Then what followed was genocide of Hindus And sikhs.
    In W Pakistan from 22% of population to 1% today.
    In E Pakistan/Bangladesh population of Hindus from 30 % to 8% today.

    In sharp monumental contrast, Muslims continued to live in India, rising from 9% of population of India in 1947 to 15% today.

    India remained silent as muslims caried out genocide of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.
    The CAB gives a ray of hope to minorities in islamic states of South Asia where they face annhilation.

      • SImple. Think in broad perspective and see increase in muslim population all over the world as compared to any other religion. You’ll find your answer.This rhetoric of genocide is as bullshit as your media.

  8. As partition happened technically we have no obligation to those followers of Arabic religion from neighboring states. There is no question legal, illegal. They are illegal.

  9. I am afraid this gambit is not likely to succeed. The partition is a bygone history. What traction it can have in the 21st century is a moot point. The focus should be on economic issues.

  10. India’s librandus are an easy going lot. All that they can do is imagine and give lectures. They have no capacity to take risky decisions. It’s easy for them to ridicule Modi’s decisions. For them actions taken by Modi had been a disaster for people of India (in reality for them only) whether it’s GST or demonetization or medical insurance or housing or gas connections or bank account opening, or using AAdhar for transferring money directly to bank account or providing tap water to poor or … or… the list is long. They don’t stop to abuse and accuse Modi even if they have to use double standards and contradict themselves. The result is that their views have become meaningless not only to Modi but also to most Indians.

  11. The BJP and RSS are bent on dragging India back to the tenth century, which is incidentally when the soft Hindu asses got roundly kicked by invading Turks and Afghans. Why revisit old wounds when there is no guarantee you will get it right the second time either?

  12. As expected, Shekhar is showing his usual left liberal sickular credentials on CAB issue. CAB is about giving citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighboring countries as India is their natural shelter in such times. Assam is a different issue and thanks to illegal migration over the years (for which we do not hold any one to account, anyway) it has come to this pass, irrespective of whether people belong to one or the other community. A specific solution will have to be found to accommodate them elsewhere, if not in Assam. A few of them may indeed be declared state less but we will have to give them some sort of work permit and their stay legalized. But this will take time and will happen in due course. Further, this has nothing to do with Tamils from Sri Lanka or Rohingyas or Tibetians, as many news channel are shouting about. We should have CAB passed next week in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Then Shekhar can give his wish list for NRC affected people in Assam. After Art 370, Ram Mandir and UCC, all pending Hindutva issues are now over and it is now a new Hindutva politics of sabka sath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas..

  13. One would be generous. If there are small groups of Hindus – the others are being mentioned to soften the communal edge – in Pakistan and Bangladesh who wish to come to India because they still face religious persecution, the government has a sovereign right to grant them citizenship. Quietly, without fuss and polarising rhetoric. No one from the political class or the general public would mind. 2. A national NRC is a terrible, terrible idea. It suggests that we have been a banana republic since 1947, our entire system of documentation is worthless. Millions of termites – vultures is an addition to the vocabulary – have been living undetected in our midst. Without having a clue what is to be done to the illegal aliens, we will have another Demonetisation on steroids exercise. Governing India requires the qualities of Sardar Patel, whom we admire even more than Pandit Nehru.

    • If “Governing India requires the qualities of Sardar Patel”, then what would happen to India, now that there is no one of Sardar’s qualities?

      The fact is, INDIA IS UNGOVERNABLE, Sardar or no Sardar! Mayawati had found UP, the biggest state, ungovernable, and had passed a non-binding resolution in the state assembly to divide it into 4 states! IF UP IS UNGOVERNABLE, HOW CAN INDIA BE GOVERNABLE? And yet India goes on, Ram bharose! Years ago a friend joked to me that India proves existence of God, because without God’s mercy, it can’t exist!

      Do you want to know another important fact? That fact is, NOBODY KNOWS HOW TO GOVERN!

      • India is simply too large and too complex in comparison to other countries.

        That’s what makes it ungovernable.

        In their desperation, the BJP is trying to homogenize India. Of cthet won’t be able to.

  14. Dear Gupta
    You should not be biased and prejudiced what BJP is doing.All its works are in the interest of India.CAB NRC are demand of time to save our country from floodgates of Muslims into India to reverse the population.
    I hope you will not be a Pakistani in future in India

    • We are the biggest exporter of human beings, legal & illegal in the world. If every country starts thinking like you, then we would not be able to absorb the number of illegal Indians staying abroad. BJP will do the NRC, and if it dosen’t like the result like in Assam, then it will start jumping around. Second BJP is not a social organization, it is a political party which thinks only about it’s interests and not the nations. If it’s thinking was so nationalistic it would not have accepted criminals from other parties and given tickets to terrorists. get real.

  15. Dear Shekhar Gupta,
    I Request you to work for unification of Pakistan and Bangladesh with India as Pr-Partition like Unification of West Germany and East Germany.
    It will end NRC and CAB for ever

    • Dear Mr. Agarwal,

      I request you to give some thought on a agenda for India which helps improve its economic might to countries like China, Singapore, South Korea, Germany, etc. And the metric here is the per capita GDP. Is Pakistan the only topic and point of interest we should have? However, if you are just the friendly neighborhood IT Cell member, this request is also dead on arrival.

      Yours,

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