Sri Swapan Dasgupta, Rajya Sabha MP, writes in the TOI of January 13, 2019, under
the caption, “India has an obligation to those left on the ‘wrong’ side after Partition” as
The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha last week has created convulsions in Assam and the rest of north- eastern India. There have been protests all over the region, the Asom Gana Parishad– an ally of the BJP– has walked out of the Sarbanand Sonowal ministry in Assam and the Meghalaya chief minister has expressed his government’s displeasure to the Centre. Although Home Minister Rajnath Singh tried to allay concerns over the erosion of regional identity, there is concern over the implicit negation of the Assam Accord of 1985 and troubles in the whole region if the bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha next month.
As a member of the joint committee that examined the bill and visited Guwahati,
Silchar and Shillong in this connection, I am aware that the committee had the
daunting task of addressing some of the leftover complications of the Partition in
1947. This has involved exercising difficult options.
First, the bill proceeds on the assumption that religious minorities in both Pakistan and Bangladesh — and for that matter Afghanistan — are, in effect, unwanted citizens that look to India as the country of refuge. In (West) Pakistan the issue was resolved in the immediate aftermath of Partition when there was a near- total exodus of Hindus and Sikhs to India.
However, the exodus of Hindus and Buddhists from what is now Bangladesh happened in phases. But the process has been uninterrupted since 1947 and Bangladeshi Hindus still constitute 11% of the population there. Their sense of vulnerability remains high, especially in the rural areas, and the flight to India has been triggered almost entirely by religious persecution, not the least of which involves the safety of women.
The bill, in effect, institutionalises the ‘right of return’ principle for religious minorities who were left on the ‘wrong’ side after Partition. The move, while not contesting the secular character of the Indian republic, establishes India’s obligation towards those excluded from the religious underpinning of Pakistan — either as a Muslim homeland or an Islamic state. In effect, the bill legitimises what is a de facto reality. The principle is not dissimilar to Germany’s obligations towards all ethnic Germans in eastern Europe and Britain’s towards those who can establish British-born grandparents.
Secondly, it is undeniable that the burden of Hindus and Buddhists fleeing East Pakistan and Bangladesh has been disproportionately borne by West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and
Meghalaya. While West Bengal — despite the relative indifference to rehabilitation in the Nehru years — has experienced a near-seamless integration of fellow Bengali-speakers from the east, there have been enormous complications in Assam and the northeast. Tripura experienced a demographic overhaul that left the indigenous population in a woeful minority. In Assam, the situation was complicated by the politically inspired influx of Bangladeshi Muslims. This was the trigger for the Assam anti-foreigner agitation in the 1980s.
There are fears in Assam that by granting citizenship to Hindus and Buddhists who entered the state till end-2014, the demography and political balance in the state will be further distorted and the rights of indigenous people negated. Indeed, before the BJP won power in 2016, the prevailing perception was that Assamese sentiments were at a permanent discount owing to the veto of minority vote banks.
The outcry over the National Register of Citizens and the hesitation over excluding non-
Indians from the voter lists have revived Assamese apprehensions. The ferocity of the
emotional backlash over identity is even threatening to overwhelm the enormous
goodwill the Narendra Modi government has gained over its development of the region.
How can these two imperatives be met, without straining national unity? Among other
things, the Assam Accord promised constitutional and administrative steps to
safeguard the identity of the “Assamese people”. In today’s context, this involves
affirmative action to ensure the political primacy of the indigenous peoples and
insulating them against land alienation. Protective legislation undertaken by state
governments in other northeastern states merits emulation in Assam.
In view of the complexities, it is worth making a distinction between citizenship and domicile. The principles governing Indian nationhood that the proposed citizenship bill articulates will be strengthened if there is no corresponding feeling of alienation among the people who have so far generously accommodated the victims of Partition. The Indian Constitution has never insisted on a one-size-fits-all approach for a diverse country. There is political space to accommodate the concerns of Assam without
having to abjure people for whom India has always been the motherland.
1. The appeasement policy of the Gandhi- Nehru gang culminated in the trifurcation of Bharat inviting immense distress to lakhs of Hindu refugees who had to flee East Pakistan and Punjab and Sindh province leaving all their land, property and belongings to save the honour, dignity and Dharma of their innocent women and children. The genocides followed, and streams of helpless and hapless people fleeing their hearth and home sought refuge in Bharat. With the fanatical Moslem barbarism unleashed on the minorities marked by incessant loot, rape of women and forced conversion repeatedly, the exodus to West Bengal from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) continued to take place in 1965, 1971 mainly, and slowly in later years as well. While the so-called secular anti-Hindu Congress Raj continued to pursue its anti- Hindu or anti majority policy through clandestine methods, the anti-Hindu venom was slowly introduced into the nerves of
Hindus beginning from school education with the help of distorted and deliberately
fabricated, demoralising and defaming History of Bharatvarsha, a constitution that
ignores the glorious past of Bharat in the fields of science and literature, physical prowess and valour, economic prosperity and architecture, brilliance of character of both men and women with its excellent pristine Dharma that established supreme humane values in the world etc.
Reservation on grounds of caste, language, religion, ethnic groups etc. has peculiarly and
systematically weakened and deprived the major Hindu community pushing them towards losing their identity, authority and special feature characteristics that endowed them with laudable unique human values. While the schools for minorities– Madrassas and convents have no bar in teaching religious books, no Govt. school or Govt. aided school in the country can teach Gita or any other Hindu holy book, even if it can immensely contribute to nurture and inculcate humane values among the youth.
There is restriction on the use of loud speakers in Hindu functions or on temples but
no such restriction is evidenced on mosques, even if located very close to hospitals,
educational institutions or offices and even Namaz is allowed on main roads blocking
thorough fare on every Friday in severel States including West Bengal as a mark of special respect and sanction towards the minority community. However, a Hindu must not be intolerant.
The discriminations towards the majority community of Hindus are so countless as
evidenced in every field of our life, under Govt. control that it will form a book if narrated in details. The incessant and often subtle aggressions in the garb of secular sentiment has also been changing the Hindu mindset, eroding their sense of values and character, social behaviour and performance including loss of dignity and self identity. On the other hand the minority organisations, NGOs etc. are highly active pursuing their
agenda of conversion, nay denationalisation by various means of greed, violence and false propaganda. A look into the following table will indicate the change in religious composition in North Eastern states between 2001- 2011.
The Hindu religious composition has declined in almost all North Eastern states significantly e.g. Arunachal, Manipore, Assam, Sikkim and Tripura, and Muslim composition enhanced in Assam, Nagaland and Tripura.It must be stated that the issue of
Moslem migrants from Bangladesh is a factor which cannot be ignored. The brunt
of the problem can well be experienced in West Bengal where a steady increase in the
minority population, their movement, settlement, business, land purchase and
various other activities is an usual experience in each and every mohalla in
cities, towns and villages. The situation is also highly alarming especially in the
bordering districts with Bangladesh.
The soaring increase in Christian population is recorded in Arunachal (+11.54), followed
by Manipore (+7.26), Meghalaya (+4.34), Sikkim (+3.23) besides the other three states
of Tripura Mizoram and Assam between 2001–2011. The unabated missionary
activities over the past 7 years must have further contributed to the change in religious
demography in the region.
2. Going further back, J.K. Bajaj in his article on “Religious Demography of the North
Eastern States of India: Trends to look for in the Census 2011” published in Dialogue,
January-March, 2011, Volume 12 No. 3, has given the figures on the changing demography in earlier years between 1991 and 2001.
The 2001 census counted a total of 383 lakh people in the seven states of the northeast. Of these, 219 lakh were Hindus, 89 lakh Muslims and 62 lakh Christians.
There was an accretion of 68 lakh persons to the population of the region between 1991
and 2001; Hindus acquired 27 lakh persons, Muslims 20 lakh and Christians 19 lakh. The
decadal growth of Hindus was thus just about 14 percent, as compared to 30 percent of the Muslims and 45 percent of the Christians. People belonging to tribal religions grew by almost the same rate as Hindus, while Buddhists recorded much lower growth…..The decline in the proportion of Hindus and corresponding rise in that of Muslims and Christians in this region was much sharper than that observed during the earlier decade of 1981-1991; there are reasons to believe that this trend of growing differential between the Hindus and others shall get further emphasized during 2001-2011.