NRC
People waiting to check their names on the final NRC draft in Tezpur | PTI
Text Size:
  • 2.6K
    Shares

Justice S.R. Sen’s comment reopened an unfinished Partition debate about Hindus and Muslims in South Asia.

Justice S.R. Sen’s provocative statement that India should have been declared a Hindu country in 1947 and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government should save the nation led to the tired and customary nationalism vs secularism debate again.

There is a political perception that the Partition benefitted the Muslims of South Asia. They established a Muslim majority Islamic state and secured special privileges in secular India. But Hindus did not get a Hindu Rashtra and they are persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Does the secular provision of Indian citizenship contradict with the interests of Hindus?

BJP leaders described Justice S.R. Sen’s remarks as an expression of national anxiety.

Secular citizenship and Hindu interests

The ‘natural right’ of Hindus to become Indian citizens is one of the most contentious political issues since 1947.

The creation of Pakistan on a religious basis and subsequent migration of communities across the borders provoked many members of India’s Constituent Assembly to demand that Hindus and Sikhs should be given unconditional Indian citizenship. Dr P.S. Deshmukh argued:

“If the Muslims want an exclusive place for themselves called Pakistan, why should not Hindus and Sikhs have India as their home? We are not debarring others from getting citizenship here. We merely say that we have no other country to look to for acquiring citizenship rights… so long as we follow the respective religions, should have the right of citizenship in India ….I do not think this claim is in any way non-secular or secretarian or communal.”

This line of argument did not survive and the Constituent Assembly finally adopted a secular definition of citizenship. Terms like Hindu, Muslim and Sikh were replaced by overtly secular categories. Even the frequently used expression ‘Hindu/Sikh refugees’ was intentionally excluded in the final version of the Constitution and the individuals who were coming from Pakistan were described as ‘migrants’ (Article 6, 7 and 8).

These secular principles of citizenship envisage a crucial distinction between the given, and somewhat fixed, religious cultural identities of an individual and his/her formal association with the state as a citizen. In this sense, an attempt was made to replace a permanent communal majority based on Hindu/Muslim distinction with what B.R. Ambedkar calls a political majority-based on rational secular principles.

It did not mean that this secular conception of citizenship ignored the plight of migrant communities or minorities who stayed back in India and Pakistan after 1947. The famous Nehru-Liaquat pact of 1950 is an example. Both the governments agreed to give citizenship rights to all communities and to protect the interests of minorities, irrespective of religion. These principles of secular citizenship in India were also followed in the preparation of the National Citizenship Register (NCR) in 1951.

Jawaharlal Nehru re-imagined the so-called Hindu interests and successfully launched a massive and overtly secular rehabilitation programme for accommodating migrant populations into the nation-building process.


Also read: For BJP and RSS, road to the Hindu Rashtra is not through Constitution


Did Muslims get Pakistan?

Pakistan authorities refused to take Muslim migrants from India in later years. The ‘permit system’ introduced immediately after Partition gradually evolved into the passport system. In fact, Pakistan did not commit itself to grant citizenship to all Muslims of South Asia. The migrant Muslim population was actually seen as an economic and social liability.

(Vazira Zamindar, 2007, The Long Partition and the Making of South Asia, London: Penguin/Viking, pp. 82-85)

This policy continued even after 1956 when Pakistan was officially declared an Islamic state. It did not offer citizenship to any individual only on the basis of his/her Islamic identity. Bangladesh also followed similar principles of citizenship. It also does not give any preference to Indian Muslims.

The Muslim citizens of India have to obtain a visa to visit Pakistan or Bangladesh. There is no official provision that allows them unrestricted access to these countries. The argument that Pakistan/Bangladesh is a ‘Muslim homeland’, therefore, is entirely misleading.


Also read: The good Muslim-bad Muslim binary is as old as Nehru


Natural rights of Hindus

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 seems to have reopened the debate about the ‘natural rights of Hindus on Indian citizenship’. This bill aims to offer unconditional Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Although this bill does not exclusively talk about the ‘Hindu interests’, an implicit reference to Muslims is clearly made in it. The targeted countries are Muslim-majority states; and the communities that are defined as migrant ‘minorities’ are also non-Muslims.

The bill has been referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee, which is supposed to examine a very delicate question: Should the religion of a person be treated as a criterion for India citizenship?

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are not Muslim homelands. These European-style nation-states recognised Islam as their national religion, and do not take responsibility of Muslim minorities.

India, which has posed a serious challenge to the idea of European nation-state model, is ironically in danger of deviating from its uniquely designed secular conception of citizenship in the name of ‘Hindu interests’.


Also read: What explains the Muslim silence in the face of BJP’s aggressive Hindutva?


Hilal Ahmed is a scholar of political Islam and associate professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

(ThePrint is publishing three series on minorities in India by Hilal Ahmed. The ‘Sarkari Muslim’, Minority Report, and Line of Law will trace the political journey of Muslims in the country. This is the second article under Minority Report.)

Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.


  • 2.6K
    Shares
21 Comments Share Your Views

21 COMMENTS

  1. The arguments are little funny…Under no circumstances what land-of-the-pure does is of any consequence of significance to India. Land-of-the-pure is definitely not a standard for humanity, morality or civilization – it is simply a hell hole, where human life has of secondary significance w.r.t primitive tribal mythologies and the lie called God.

    I guess, what India can do, as the last surviving Pagan people, people without any revelations, people without Prophets, people who are not sure if God is at all there or not – ask couple of questions for people seeking asylum and citizenship here, to unsure they satisfy “Indian ethos”, and will not be trouble makers.

    In spirit it would be somewhat similar to the question American mights have asked citizenship seekers from the then communist countries like USSR, East Germany, Cuba or China. “Do you respect multiparty democracy, or a “single” party absolute rule”, “Do you understand and respect the fact that people will disagree with you”….

    So, as the land of people with confused views – we can ask this simple question – “do you believe in and respect the fact that the pagans way of realizing Gods and also no God is absolutely OK and correct as yours is.” – “do you believe and respect that atheist, people having the conviction that God is a lie, are as correct as your religious views are”, do you believe in multiparty, sorry multiple Gods, or other people’s Gods are also ok as yours is to you. Write down a declaration Accordingly…if the answers are all yes, ok, else go away… A simple way to isolate spiritual terrorists 😉

    Actually one can ask this questions as a citizenship test or declaration for every Indians as a matter of fact 😉

  2. Our great leaders accepted the two nation theory on the basis of Muslims and non Muslims and at the same time declared India as a secular country.Muslims are treated as vote bank,maximum parties appease them while Hindus are ignored because they are not united and don’t vote unitedly for the party which thinks and considers their interests.Non Muslims are driven out from the great undivided India in the name of religion;if India will not give them citizenship then where will they go?

  3. “Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are not Muslim homelands. These European-style nation-states recognised Islam as their national religion, and do not take responsibility of Muslim minorities.” WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? European Style Nation States!!!! These countries are Caliphates who prosecute and annihilate minorities. What was the Hindu population of These countries in 1947 and now?? They have committed a genocide against the Hindus and other minorities. It is India’s duty to welcome Hindus from anywhere in the world because this is their natural home.

  4. being a Muslim I must say writer is making his claims on hypothesis….for his information Pervez Musharraf is an Indian migrants…. I don’t understand if Muslim get a safe heaven called then why Hindus shouldn’t be….. don’t mislead the country and u r factually incorrect….

  5. First of all to the reporter I must say that there is a difference between economic migrants and prosecuted Community. No the Muslim illegal immigrants in our countries are economic migrants they are no prosecuted in their country. Why they should be given citizenship. Now the minorities from those countries coming they said they are prosecuted so that makes a case and can be considered. See people and not Uneducated stop your propaganda. Whoever is searching news in the internet is wise enough to understand your propaganda. And watch every news in Pakistan they never mention about secularism. They always say Islami comi , Islamic community and shit. A nobody wants a Pakistani citizenship too.. fools.. !!

  6. I am a little confused by choice of certain words in the article. The article does not clarify the use of word ‘dangerously’ in its title. What is dangerous about it – regardless of the merit of this move?
    Secondly, you cannot apply a generic approach of building of nation states to all parts of the world disregarding their historical context. Evolution of nations in South Asia has a wholly different historical context from the way nation states evolved in South Asian subcontinent.
    In my view, the article is grounded in poor research and reflection.

  7. This is a biased article. The plight of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh are terrible. These is from the fact that the percentage of hindus has gone down drastically in both these countries.

  8. This article is kind of ignorant. If Pakistan and Bangladesh didn’t treat their minority populations so horribly, then why would they need to leave those countries? Hindus and Christians have been persecuted terribly in Pakistan and Bangladesh and enjoy a status far worse than India’s Muslims.

  9. It was for best that this article has quoted various debates during Constitution making process of India and if we critically look back it is very clear that Nehruvian idealism is failed reality. From Hindu migrants in Kashmir to Manipur we find how ‘secular definitions’ of citizenship have been inadequate to address plight of these communities. Giving citizenship to persecuted minority population is very much in line with India’s unique concept of secularism which liberals like Rajeev Bhargava defined as ‘principled distance.’ This is generally used by all while defending special minority rights in India. Now this is used to deny citizenship to all those non-muslims like hindus who were denied marriage law till recently and have just single digit legislators elected in history of Pakistan and even CJI had to run away in Bangladesh for being Hindu. Pakistan’s rejection of muslim migrants is irrelevant as it is non-muslims who are not protected. On the contrary Rohingyas come to India. Now if this secularism as everybody continues to rhetorically repeat failed to take into consideration event of partition for being idealitistic in 1947 can’t be rigid to deny special rights to persecuted Hindus in these Isamic countries in 2018 where they are thrown in Jail under sharia or their daughters being stolen, forcefully converted and married, their lands being taken etc.
    This is important because 2018 is the time when we must be realistic to understand 70 years of partition history and how Islamic Pakistan has miserably failed and actively kills non-muslims especially hindus. Hence Indian secularism as everyone says being unique if fails to addres this in 2018 then it is really useless and no special at all and this will definitely create space for many to say that partition really benefited only single community.

  10. Pakistan & Bangladesh have overtly asserted their Muslim character through their respective constitutions. The author’s contention that Muslims did not gain anything through partition doesn’t hold. What matters to us Hindus is what losses we were forced to bear because of decisions for which we had no responsibility. Hindus & Sikhs were forced out of their ancestral lands because Islamofascists couldn’t live under a government which had non-muslims, couldn’t live in a country where Muslims & Non-Muslims were to be treated on par. All other arguments are immaterial. The only reason why India failed to be a Hindu state was because of Nehru’s connivance with the imperial strategic planners. The moment Congress party led by Nehru accepted the creation of Islamic Pakistan, he had also accepted the ‘Two Nation Theory’ on which the creation was based which inherently meant India was to be for Non-Muslims first, especially Hindus and Sikhs who had lost a lot because of the partition.

  11. It was for best that this article has quoted various debates during Constitution making process of India and if we critically look back it is very clear that Nehruvian idealism is failed reality. From Hindu migrants in Kashmir to Manipur we find how ‘secular definitions’ of citizenship have been inadequate to address plight of these communities. Giving citizenship to persecuted minority population is very much in line with India’s unique concept of secularism which liberals like Rajeev Bhargava defined as ‘principled distance.’ This is generally used by all while defending special minority rights in India. Now this is used to deny citizenship to all those non-muslims like hindus who were denied marriage law till recently and have just single digit legislators elected in history of Pakistan and CJI had to run away in Bangladesh for being Hindu. Now if this secularism as everybody continues to rhetorically repeat fails to take into consideration history of partition for being idealitistic in 1947 can’t be rigid to deny special rights to persecuted Hindus in these Isamic countries in 2018 where they are thrown in Jail under sharia or their daughters being stolen, forcefully converted and married, their lands being taken etc.
    This is important becauss 2018 is time when we must be realistic to understand 70 years of partition history and how Islamic Pakistan has miserably failed and actively kills non-muslims especially hindus. Hence Indian secularism as everyone says being unique if fails to addres this in 2018 then it is really useless and no special at all and this will definitely create space for many to say that partition really benefited only single community.

  12. This is a most disingenuous notion. Pakistan does not need to be selective about citizenship and religion. It has seen to virtual extinction of its Hindu population and what remains of it is under duress to convert. As for the Christian minority they are living daily in the fear of the awful blasphemy law! It is a disgrace for this writer to compare India to such a Pakistan! I expect nothing better from the Print website anyway so this is just par for the course!

  13. The article is superficial and ornamental at best, Did liaquat pact work for Pak Hindus? We have seen the conditions of Hindus citizens in Pak and Bangladesh and waves of mig of Bengali Hindus post riots in E. Pak. Pak and Bangladesh have been comparatively good for largely Muslim migrants not so much for Hindus. In this respect(Afghans, Rohingyas) both countries records are exemplary. We must emulate them and give asylum to non-muslims atleast for we ourselves are extremely poor and resource strived. Secondly you can’t ignore the ground reality, there is a paranoia against increasing muslim population which again is reality. (debate is the rate)

  14. Why is ‘The Print’ so antagonistic to the plight of non-Muslims ( Hindus, Jains and Sikhs) in our neighborhood totalitarian Islamic countries?
    Ofcourse India is a natural home for these persecuted communities!

  15. I feel pity for them. But remember 1962 war with China who reached Tezpur in Assam. Muslims of Tezpur put up banners ..WELCOME CHINA ..

  16. Army’s duty is to protect the country from external aggression etc. If the Army itself starts aggression agonist the citizens who is there to protect them? It is the responsibility of the Politic class of the day to protect the interest of the citizens of the country. While the interest of the Muslims -dominant Pakistan was duly protected by declaring it as “Islamic State” the same was denied to India from being declared a “Hindu Rashtra”. It was quite logical to do so. Parents refuse to take care of the interests of their wards !

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here