“I was hid under the bed by my uncle as they came to forcefully take me with them,” said a 10 year old girl with heartbreaking innocence. Probably still she is unmindful of what could happen to her, if she met the same fortune as many of her religious peers. She is one of thousands of Hindu refugees sheltered in parts of Delhi who fled their homeland Pakistan to escape the horrors of persecution, forced proselytization and life bereft of basic human rights and dignity. Most of them have their tragic Stories to tell; how they faced inhumane treatment-from not being allowed to touch non hindus in public places to be in a perpetual fear of having their house ransacked and valuables plundered. A few days ago, Indian government relaxed the citizenship act 1955 to fast track the process of providing citizenship to persecuted minorities like them in three neighbouring countries named Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. After passing of the act, any immigrant belonging to the minority community of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis in the said countries will not have to wait for more years to be legally indian if they entered India not after 31 December 2014.They will have access to all public benefits that any other indian citizens enjoys. Interestingly, the law has been at the receiving end of fierce criticism on the basis of the argument that it singles out muslims as being non beneficiaries of the new provision, hence it is unconstitutionally discriminatory against a particular community.however, the law specifically states that it attempts to give relaxation on the ground of intelligible differentiate of religious persecution and those left out count as majority in their own country ruling out any possibility of their inclusion. This is mere concession to one set of immigrants on humanitarian basis, not creation of ground of citizenship.
This law seems to have passed the test of constitution in the absence of any clear violation of any of its fundamentals. As opposed to the view that the articles 14,15, 21 and 25 discord with the law, many constitution experts-one of whom is the former solicitor general Harish salve-have totally absolved the citizenship law 2019 of constitutional invalidity, even though what the supreme court decides is yet to be beheld. What is astounding is the reaction of the international community including UNSG, UN human rights council and US Congress foreign affairs committee. Each of them showed concern regarding the development questioning the intention of the government with respect to muslim community. While valid criticism grounded on facts should be welcome, response reeking of ignorance and presumption particularly from those holding respectable position internationally is a matter of disappointment.
The disinformation being disseminated in some circle is that the government is stripping of citizenship from indian largest minority, as if provision of the law is to target indian muslim community. Even after ingemination of truth by various political leaders including home minister Amit Shah the agenda driven lie does not seem to halt. Religious minorities in the indian neighborhood, especially in what is now Pakistan and erstwhile east Pakistan, have witnessed endless flurry of violence, a large number of cases of which have been state sponsored. It is incumbent on indian government to provide them sanctuary in a way that restores their dignity, rights and opens for them window of opportunity to grow and prosper. That, however, does not mean India should allow it’s border open for whoever wills to settle in the country. Those infiltrated into India for economic reasons can not be treated in a similar fashion as those persecuted in their home country, given the limited availability of resources. One set of argument goes about exclusion of minorities of srilanka and Myanmar from the relaxation of the act, if it Indeed has humanitarian basis. It is a policy decision and totally left to the discretion of government which foreign group they choose to give asylum to. As the saying goes, “one doesn’t have to address all evils to address one evil.” There can be disagreements over policy decision, but to say that the law is unconstitutional holds no basis and requires disillusionment.