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Who are the sons and daughters of the soil?

Karan Thapar

I am astounded by the government’s recent arguments in support of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Not only is its logic factually flawed, but it’s also deeply disturbing. Now, governments the world over distort facts, and the outcome can be disillusioning. But in this case, it has possibly gone further. It is, arguably, self-contradictory.

Let’s start with the home minister’s statement: “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Christian refugees from Pakistan have as much right over India as you and I. They are the sons and daughters of India. The country will embrace them.” This is based on the fact we were one country before 1947. But then what about the Muslims of Pakistan? Weren’t they part of the same country too?

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, opposed Partition on the grounds all Indians, including Muslims, were one people. Is Amit Shah refuting or turning his back on the Mahatma’s belief?

In 2015, Ram Madhav, a general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told Al Jazeera he believes “India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will reunite to form ‘Akhand Bharat’”. Even though his party claimed this is his personal view – it was, however, part of the BJP’s manifesto in 1952 – read carefully what he actually said: “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) still believes that one day these parts, which have for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created. As an RSS member I also hold on

to that view.”

Now, tell me, if Akhand Bharat ever came to be, what would happen to the Muslims of Pakistan? In Amit Shah’s eyes, they are not “the sons and daughters of India”. They do not have “as much right over this country as you and I”. So, would we push them into the sea?

Next is the argument made by the prime minister that CAA will expose Pakistan’s persecution of minorities. As he put it: “It’s the result of our initiative that Pakistan will now have to answer why they have been persecuting minorities for the last 70 years… (otherwise) the world would not have known about the kind of atrocities that were perpetrated on minorities in Pakistan.”

Actually, the world is only too aware of how deplorably Pakistan’s minorities are treated. Asia Bibi was an international cause celebre but only the most recent. The ill-treatment of Abdus Salam, the country’s first Nobel laureate, was perhaps the earliest. In fact, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom never fails to castigate Pakistan. In 2019, it was designated as a “country of particular concern”. Actually, the Commission has come to that conclusion every year since 2002. In 2018, the State Department concurred. So, clearly, India’s discriminatory CAA is not needed to draw attention to Pakistan’s ill-treatment of its religious minorities.

Finally, has the number of Hindus in Pakistan reduced in recent years? And, are they the worst-suffering religious minority? On both counts the answer is no. According to Pakistan’s census, in West Pakistan, in 1951 – after Partition migrations – 3.44 per cent of the country’s population was Hindu. In 1961, that reduced to 2.83. Thereafter, it’s risen – 3.25 in 1972, 3.30 in 1981, and 3.70 in 1998.

While Pakistani Hindus are undeniably ill-treated, there are reasons to believe the treatment of other religious minorities is worse. The BBC’s Reality Check team says: “the majority of blasphemy cases up to 2018” were filed against Ahmadiyas or other Muslims, not Christians and Hindus. Perhaps the worst sufferers are the four million Ahmadiyas. In 1974, they were declared non-Muslim. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s 1984 ordinance forbade community worship or calling their places of worship mosques. While Hindus have risen to be chief justices, ministers and members of parliament, that’s been denied to Ahmadiyas for over 45 years.

Now, remember, the Ahmadiya faith originated in Qadian, in the Gurdaspur district of our Punjab. Doesn’t that make them “sons and daughters of India”? Don’t they have “as much right over India as you and I”?

(HT Media)

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