This Holi, Let Us Welcome Our New Fellow Citizens-The Persecuted Refugees CAA Is Meant For
Let us celebrate #HoliForHumanity, #HoliForUnity and send our love to the joyful new citizens of our country and to minorities still facing trouble in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
A part of a famous poem by Jaleel Haider Lashri which finds its origin in Pakistan goes like this:
Jaane kab kaun kise maar de kafir kah ke,
Shahr ka shahr musalman hua phirta hai
(You never know who gets killed as a non-believer and by whom,
For the whole city roams around proclaiming themselves as Muslim).
There is voluminous evidence today that speaks of the persecution of the religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Be it in Bangladesh, where Hindu temples have been constantly attacked and vandalised, or Afghanistan where ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues were destroyed, or Pakistan where Hindu and Sikh girls get kidnapped, forcefully converted to Islam and married off against their will.
The recent case of the kidnapping of the daughter of a granthi (keeper of the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, of Sikhs) of Nankana Sahib gurudwara in Pakistan and the case of a Christian woman named Asifa Bibi targeted through the draconian blasphemy laws, are still fresh in all our memories.
These countries by their founding principles have a state religion. They do not proclaim to be secular. This is perhaps the reason why the governments turn a blind eye towards the attacks by religious radicals of the state religion on the minority religions.
Consider the following statistics, for example, that show the extent of discrimination faced by religious minorities in these countries. Reports suggest that in undivided Pakistan 23 per cent of the total population was Hindu during India's Partition in 1947, and it is reported that after 70 years it is now 3.7 per cent.
In Bangladesh, the Hindu population decreased from 22 per cent in 1951 to 9 per cent in 2011.
In Afghanistan, the combined population of Sikhs and Hindus was 700,000 in the 1970s, but today that number is a dismal 1,300. Even those 1,300 cannot get out of the country because of their poverty. Such is the condition of minorities in these countries.
On the other hand, after the partition of India, the minority communities have grown on all fronts. According to the 1951 Census, Muslims were 9.8 per cent of the total population and according to the 2011 Census they are 14.23 per cent.
The population of other minority communities has also grown at the same pace as the total population.
According to 2011 Census data, Jains have the highest literacy rate, 86.4 per cent and as per recent data from a 2016 report this has gone up to 94.9 per cent. The literacy rate for Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists is above the national average.
From 2001 to 2011, compared to all the different communities, the literacy rate among Muslims showed the largest increase of 9.4 per cent. India is home to the world’s second-largest Muslim population.
In three India states, more than 75 per cent of the population is Christian and in the other five, more than 20 per cent of the population is Christian.
In two states, more than 25 per cent of the population is Buddhist.
Out of the 12 presidents that India has had, three were Muslims, and one Sikh. India has had a prime minister, who is a Sikh (Dr Manmohan Singh). Four Muslims have served as chief justices of the Supreme Court of India.
The current permanent representative of India at the United Nations is also a Muslim. Many chief ministers of states within India and a large number of ministers at states and central government have been Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis.
People coming from the minority communities in India are listed among world achievers in the fields of science, business, sports, movies, music, authors, armed forces, etc. They have made their mark in all walks of life.
Here are just a few of the many successful people from minority communities in India, A P J Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh, Azim Premji, Ratan Tata, Mohammad Azharuddin, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Sania Mirza, A R Rahman, Navjot Singh Siddhu, Mary Kom, Leander Paes, Shabana Azmi, General Bikram Singh among many others.
Compare that with the minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. They have not just failed their minorities, they have also failed the whole of humanity. Their religious minorities are even in the current times living in pathetic conditions.
In 1947, when India was being partitioned, the flow of information was not easy. Rather, there were a lot of rumours and misinformation. Many common people did not really understand the gravity of the situation arising from the Partition and how their lives would change.
Many people, who did understand, either had no money to travel to a safer place or could not leave their properties accumulated over generations or memories and move overnight.
Many counted on their neighbours and stayed back, only to repent later. Indian leaders after Independence wanted to protect the minorities of these countries, hence the Nehru-Liaquat pact was signed in 1950.
It is the moral responsibility of all Indians, to support Parliament in welcoming them to India because even we were responsible for the creation of these countries by religion-based Partition.
Safeguarding the basic rights of these minorities is a moral responsibility of not just India, but also the whole world, which not only made the partition of the subcontinent possible (by directly supporting or not opposing). The world also failed to put pressure on these nations over persecution of their minorities.
The world has failed to stand up for these religious minorities, who have waited for help and are still waiting.
Parliament of India has finally, after so many years, cleared the way to fast-track the process of granting Indian citizenship to these persecuted minorities by passing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.
With this act in place, all the religiously persecuted people who came to India as refugees before December 2014 from these countries can get citizenship upon five years of living, instead of 11 years required for a normal application.
Several Indian leaders across party lines, including the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, have gone public on the issue. They have accepted that it is the moral and ethical responsibility of India to ensure that all non-Muslims are helped to respectfully settle in India.
Many other countries in the world have also taken similar measures to support religiously persecuted minorities in other countries like the US enacted the Lautenberg Amendment in 1989.
People are being misguided to say that the government will club the CAA with NRC (National Register of Citizens) to trouble minorities, who are genuine Indian citizens.
First things first, the process to conduct NRC has not even been notified, and nobody really knows what it is going to be.
The assumption that an upcoming law will be cruel doesn't justify the blockage of this law, which addresses the humanitarian issue that the whole world turned a blind eye to.
Let there be no doubt that whenever the government decides to implement NRC and if in any case it tends to exploit any Indian citizen we all should and we definitely will stand by our fellow citizens irrespective of their religious faiths.
We are pretty sure that this open-hearted humanitarian law brought in by the Indian Parliament will make the life of our new fellow citizens better.
To show our love and support to these new citizens, let us all celebrate this decade’s first Holi with a message.
Let us all click a photo with colourful Holi faces, holding a placard with a welcome message.
Let us celebrate #HoliForHumanity, #HoliForUnity and send our love to the joyful new citizens of our country and to minorities still facing trouble in those countries.
Also, let us all send a message to the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to take care of their religious minorities, to treat them with dignity and respect, and above all to treat them as humans.
Authors want to thank Nihar Sashittal for all his help.
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