Indian State has a civilisational responsibility to grant citizenship to people of Indic faiths from all over the world if they are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs, not just those from the neighbouring countries.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Lok Sabha yesterday ( 9 December 2019) where it passed with flying colours after a robust debate.
The way Shah and the government listened to all different viewpoints of the Opposition parties and addressed them with great clarity and patience is a testament to our maturing parliamentary democracy.
The CAB intends to fast-track legal path for citizenship for those people belonging to minority religions (non-Muslims) which have and will come to India fleeing religious persecution at hands of neighbouring Islamic states of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Muslims of these three countries are rightly excluded, for it would be ridiculous to suggest that Muslims are persecuted in an Islamic country for their religious beliefs.
If anything, they may be hounded for not being Islamic enough.
This Bill has come decades late. Minorities in the said Islamic countries have been facing atrocities from the very day these nations came into their own skin.
The Narendra Modi government, which is working on a mission to correct the blunders committed by past executives starting with Nehru, has done the right thing to address this long-pending issue of grave humanitarian concern.
CAB is thus a welcome step, but it has one fundamental shortcoming.
It takes into account only three Islamic countries which also happen to be our neighbours. If we try to winnow the grain and separate substance from the propaganda and misinformation, only two genuine questions arise.
First, why should we take into account only Islamic countries and not others which are also theocratic and have a history of persecution of minorities? Second, why are we considering only our neighbouring Islamic countries and not the faraway ones where persecution of minorities can be as severe, if not more?
One might say that it’s practical to include only neighbouring countries because minorities would find it easier to flee to India. While this may apply to Pakistan and Bangladesh, it falls flat in case of Afghanistan because we share border with it only theoretically.
Regarding including other non-Islamic theocracies, the argument could be that we can deal with them separately if the need arises as we did in the case of persecuted Sri Lankan Tamils. Fair enough. The scope of the Bill is limited and restricted to only those countries where our major influx of refugees is coming from.
But let’s face it. The CAB is not framed based on first principles whether because of its limited scope or because it’s trying to be more practical than principled.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have a principled case to make. We have. And it is rooted in first principles and doesn’t fall foul of any logical fallacies.
What the Indian State needs to do is categorically state that India, that is Bharat, is a historical homeland of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains and the Indian State has a civilisational responsibility to grant citizenship to people of these faiths from all over the world if they are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs.
This doesn’t mean that we are shutting the doors on persecuted people of other faiths. This is the canard being spread with regard to CAB, too, which is completely false. It’s only about prioritising and fast tracking citizenship for one section of people for a very good reason.
CAB is generous and includes Christians too, who have scores of other countries to go to for asylum. Additionally, there are Christian countries which give preference to Christians in granting asylum, refuge and citizenship. But members of Indic faiths don’t enjoy such a privilege. They have only India to look up to. And it would be a travesty to deny them even this right.
It’s time India stood up for protecting religious beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs from all over the world and not just in our neighbouring Islamic countries. It can not shy away from this civilisational duty for long.