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Citizenship to refugees

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Indian government is set to amend important laws to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants who fled religious persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh triggering another controversy.

The Union Home Ministry would make amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Passport Act, 1920 in order to provide refuge to the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and Christians from Pakistan and Bangladesh who fled religious persecution. The details of the government move are not yet known and are likely to have far-reaching implications in Assam and some parts of north-west India. The decision of the Modi regime cannot be considered emerging from the sacred thought of providing asylum to the outsiders. While the immigrants are branded as traitors and criminals on one hand with the government looking for ways to ouster them, the hidden agenda behind the broadmindedness in granting citizenship to them cannot be ignored. The move is an obvious practical implementation of the political ideologies.

The world has been facing acute refugee crisis for a while. Article 14 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), guarantees the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries. The refugee crisis in India can be traced back to the socio-political scenario at the time of independence and partition. About 15 million people turned refugees who were separated along religious lines into two countries. Situations worsened due to the socio-communal atmosphere after the partition. The Liaquat–Nehru Pact or Delhi Pact signed by the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and Pakistan premier Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950 asserted that it was the responsibility of each country to protect and safeguard its minorities. The residents along the border of the two countries have migrated to more safer zones during the India-Pak war that aggravated the refugee crisis. People from poor family backgrounds who come to north-east regions in search of jobs also added to the influx. The issue rather than being interpreted comprehensively is approached through the narrow-minded view of religious persecution.

The Sangh Parivar with their regressive views expects to strengthen the Hindu population by bringing in more people from neighbouring countries. The BJP in their 2014 election manifesto had declared India as ‘a natural home for persecuted Hindus’. Prime Minister Modi had earlier urged the Hindu community in Bangladesh to migrate to India. This is akin to the Zionist stance of promoting Jewish population in Israel. The BJP-led government has granted citizenship to 4200 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan during its one year in power, which is almost four times the number granted to such persons by the UPA government in their five years. The erstwhile UPA government had granted only 1023 citizenships. The undocumented immigrants can heave a sigh of relief if the amendments to the law are approved. But the criteria on which they are made aren’t based on any humanitarian considerations. Dividing the immigrants along religious and sectarian lines is against the concept of secularism which emphasizes on zero discrimination or inclination towards any particular religion. The Opposition should therefore take effective measures to rectify the move.

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