Rectifying a historical blunder through CAA
The Act seeks to give justice to the religious minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who migrated to India after facing persecution.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, which was introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and became an Act after being passed by both the houses of Parliament, seeks to give justice to the religious minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who migrated to India after facing persecution in those countries.
Not a long time ago, I had gone to the refugee camps in Delhi where I interacted with those families who have migrated here because of being discriminated only for following a religion which is different from the dominant faith. This Act is a gift for the new decade of the 21st Century to these persecuted minorities by the Modi Government.
At the time of Independence, these minorities were promised protection in their countries and shelter and equal rights in India if they ever left their countries because of religious persecution and discrimination. These promises were made by a number of leaders like Gandhi and Nehru and even after Independence, many leaders continued to highlight the plight of these religious minorities but hardly ever did they attempt to settle the issue once for all.
Surprisingly, many communist leaders in the past too have raised concerns over the religious minorities being persecuted in Pakistan and Bangladesh, but did nothing to safeguard their rights and interests. Those leaders include Comrade Bhupesh Gupta of the Communist Party of India and Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too raised his voice to protect those minorities, but the Congress Government never walked its talk.
One major incident in history regarding safeguarding the religious minorities in these countries is the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. This pact required each country to ensure that its minorities enjoy complete equality of citizenship with others and receive treatment identical to that available for other nationals of their country.
It is interesting to mention that immediately after the inception of this pact, the religious minorities of Pakistan started to face harassment and discrimination in the name of their religion. This was exactly what Union Home Minister Amit Shah also pointed out in his speeches in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in December 2019.
By enacting the CAA 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, have not only corrected a historic wrong, they have also fulfilled a historic promise, which no other party or leader had the courage or sensitivity to do in the past.
While interacting with those refugees, they expressed pain when I asked them how their life used to be in Pakistan. Hindus in Pakistan are seen as second-class citizens and treated like slaves. The judicial system is completely biased towards Hindus and other religious minorities, they said.
But they expressed happiness and joy when they were told that the Modi Government has made a law to grant citizenship to them. All the refugees thanked PM Modi for his commitment towards giving them justice and uplifting them. This Act of 2019 has given a new ray of hope to the refugees and will help them in standing shoulder to shoulder with other citizens so that they too can contribute in nation building.
The refugees were blessed to be accepted by their civilisational mother land after the passing of the CAA. Some refugees said that though they came here from Pakistan, naturally they belong to India only. They firmly believe that life in India is any day better than living a life without dignity in Pakistan.
The Hindus are always hated in Pakistan and they are never seen as the citizens of Pakistan. They were abused and called ‘kafirs’ every single day. Children faced discrimination for being Hindus. Demolishing temples, hurling slurs at Hindus and their modes and methods of worship, is common in Pakistan. Their life was a continuous nightmare in Pakistan. The Hindus in Pakistan were forced to watch the slaughter of cows and they could not bear the pain and oppression and decided to come away to Bharat, their actual motherland.
When I asked one of the refugees that what she would like to say to those people who are opposing this Act, she said “we have faced a lot of torture and have undergone great pain, that’s why we came to our motherland. We are at last being given a life of dignity, don’t oppose it”.
Trudging through the refugee camp, I met Gyandas. He left Pakistan in 2013 along with his family and has now become well known across India. On the day the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, Gyandas was blessed with a daughter and, overwhelmed with emotion, he named her ‘Nagrikta’ as a tribute to PM Narendra Modi’s historic move to grant citizenship.
I asked him what he expects from the government after getting citizenship. He said “After getting citizenship, our necessities will automatically be fulfilled; our children will now have access to schools, healthcare, we will now have opportunities for employment and more possibilities, our lives will now be stable, and we have a future to look forward to now”.
Finally, I want to say that the torture and discrimination of minorities in Pakistan continued and continues, Nankana Sahib being the latest incident. Those people who are opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 must listen to the voices of these voiceless people who still continue to be the victims of religious atrocities in Pakistan. The people opposing the Act will never know how much pain these Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other religious minorities have gone through.
Enough evidence is available to prove that religious minorities live in constant fear in Pakistan, and now we even have the video-graphic evidence to refute the protesters. To those people who still continue to protest against this Act, I would say that it does not intend to snatch citizenship from any person, rather the rules of the previous Act have been relaxed to grant citizenship to the religiously persecuted minorities of our theocratic neighbours. So, it’s time for the protesters to wake up now and support those voiceless people.
(The writer is an Advocate at the Supreme Court of India)