Citizenship Amendment Act : Opposing it is betrayal


Opposition to CAA, aside from blatantly pandering to certain votebanks, also constitutes a wilful ignorance to the historical threats posed by theocratic state actors towards religious minorities

This long article is ‘dedicated’ to Professor Pranab Bardhan, a Bengali Hindu crypto-communist, who has lived and taught in the United States for the last forty years and opposes the CAA and sees it as an “effectively anti-Muslim citizenship law”. Prof Bardhan does not qualify his statement, but only exposes the fact that he has a problem with the Modi government’s decision to grant citizenship to hapless refugees.

Prof Bardhan is a near-exact replica of Prof Amartya Sen when it comes to the mindless false propaganda that he peddles against Prime Minister Modi and the BJP. In a sense, they are among the most well-known promoters of a system of intellectual thugocracy – a closed group of false narrative peddlers, whose prerogative it is to spread falsehoods about India and about Modi on the world scene.

“…It was a pitiable sight at the Court compound, which was packed to capacity. Some of those who came had either seen ghastly sights or themselves had suffered frightfully…Many, did not know where the other members of their families were, or if they were alive at all. Some were wearing, only a piece of cloth others could not bring any money with them. A pall of sorrow had fallen over the place. In that terrible winter night those who had no bedding or clothing with them suffered most. Next day about ten o’clock we were removed to the Jagannath College refugee camp…I am new at this camp. I spent a total of 30 years in jail for the freedom of India-Pakistan; and was underground for five years. After independence I alone have the right to be in a refugee camp. I needed this experience… If communal riots occur 17 years after Independence, then who can guarantee that these will not occur in the future? Migration means immense suffering and even death for many Hindus, why then do they want to leave their hearth and home and property? Lack of security is perhaps the only reason…”

Thus, lamented the legendary freedom fighter, once formidable leader of the Anushilan Samiti, the revolutionary Trailokyanath Chakravarty, known by the sobriquet Maharaj among his revolutionary colleagues. At seventy-five, with a acute heart ailment, Chakravarty who had stayed back in East Pakistan in order to protect his people, after 1947, had to be taken into a putrid refugee camp in Dhaka, in biting cold of January 1964, after another round of attacks on the minorities had been unleashed in East Pakistan.

Gone were the leaders who had warned Nehru against his pact with Liaquat Ali Khan, gone was Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, Dr BC Roy and others.

In his historic resignation letter, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee had pointed out how the “crux of the problem” was “Pakistan’s concept of an Islamic State and the ultra-communal administration based on it.” The Nehru-Liaquat Agreement, he had then argued, “side-tracks this cardinal issue.” In unequivocal term he had observed then that events had “proved that Hindus cannot live in East Bengal on the assurances of security given by Pakistan” and “We should accept this as a basic proposition” but the “present Agreement

on the other hand calls upon minorities to look upon Pakistan Government for their safety and honour which is adding insult to injury and is contrary to assurances given by us previously.”

The Indian Commission of Jurists (ICJ) for instances, headed by the likes of M.C.Setalvad, N.C.Chatterjee, Purushottm Trikamdas, in its monumental report, Recurrent Exodus of Minorities from East Pakistan and Disturbances in India: a Report to the Indian Commission of Jurists by its Committee of Enquiry, (1965) speaks at the outset of how, “The recent large scale exodus of minority communities which include not only Hindus but Christians and Buddhists from East Pakistan, cannot be looked at in isolation.” In fact, this is exactly the starting point of the CAA discourse as well.

As is becoming evident, most of those “celebrities” who are opposing CAA are doing it because of some hidden commercial motive such as promoting a movie which is about to be released, or to gain some attention and media space. A majority of them have no idea of what CAA is all about. They have not even read the Act, leave alone understanding its origin and context.

Those in West Bengal who are opposing it are indulging in pure hypocrisy because the state, ever since its formation, has been a witness to the refugee narrative and struggle. It became evident since the early days that Pakistan was to be governed as a theocratic state. In East Pakistan, especially because a large number of minorities had stayed back, the process of cleansing by the Ansars – the ideological and political ancestors of the later day Jamaat and Razakars in Bangladesh – with active collusion of the East Pakistan administration gathered momentum and by early 1950 it became clear to all except perhaps Nehru, that this was a systematic and deliberate attempt to hound out the minorities. A number of leaders from the minority community, a number of the former revolutionaries from East Bengal who had decided to continue living there after independence, many of them becoming members of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly began sounding notes of caution and raising the alarm. Bhupendra Kumar Datta, for instance, one of the most well-known revolutionaries of the Jugantar group, a fearless follower of the iconic Bagha Jatin, while speaking in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, described the deteriorating situation of the minorities there.

Datta spoke on March 16, 1950, just a day before, Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, spoke in the Indian Parliament predicting the failure of the Nehru-Liaquat agreement. Datta’s description should be read by those who, having no clue of the historical dimension of CAA, are opposing it. “Sir, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned,” began Datta, “we meet under the shadow of a great calamity that threatens our very existence as a community. Reports may be exaggerated, reports may be minimised. Killings may be put in four figures but accepted in three. Women’s honour may have suffered in many more cases than the world will ever come to know. There will always be different versions of the extent of the loss of property. But the fact cannot be controverted that the sudden flare-up in East Bengal since February 10 last has left the vast numbers we represent stunned and dazed, utterly shaken and nervous and psychologically uprooted. The sudden and violent outbreak of the recent lawlessness spread over a large area both urban and rural which seemingly organised plan behind it directed solely against the helpless minority without the least provocation has created a deep feeling of insecurity in the minority community…”

Exactly a year back, on March 9, 1949, when the “Aims and Objectives of the Constitution of Pakistan” were being debated in the Pakistan CA, with Liaquat Ali determined to lay deeper and cement the foundations of a theocratic state where the minorities would be treated as second class and persecuted citizens, Bhupendra Kumar Datta had made an impassioned plea and had warned how this would condemn the minorities to an inferior status. He had then said how “we on this side of the House claim to be as good Pakistanis as anybody else. We have lived in this land for generations unknown, we have loved this land, we have fought and suffered for its liberation from foreign yoke. We shall resent it for generations that under this clause “as enunciated by Islam” you condemned us forever to an inferior status and prevented Pakistan for all time to come from growing up into a country of a well-knit, homogenous people…”

Similarly, the other leaders of the Pakistan National Congress (PNC) erstwhile congressmen and revolutionary leaders who had stayed back in Pakistan with the hope that the newly created state would treat all its citizens equally had also expressed dismay from the early days when the Pakistan Constituent Assembly began debating on the kind of state that they would form.

One of the leading PNC leaders, former Congressman and Gandhian, Sris Chandra Chattopadhyay’s interventions on two occasions need to be recalled here, speaking on February 25, 1948, he argued, for instance, in the Assembly before Liaquat Ali, thus, that it pained him “to hear the Hon’ble Leader of the House when he says that Pakistan is a Muslim state. So long my idea was that Pakistan is the people’s state and it belongs to the Muslims as well as to the non-Muslims. If today the statement of the Honourable Leader of the House is accepted then it is a matter of serious consideration for the non-Muslims whether they have any right to take any part in the framing of the constitution as well: I have already told you and told this House that so long in my speeches I asserted to the people of my part of the country (East Pakistan) that Pakistan is not merely a Muslim State but it is a State of the Muslims as well as that of non-Muslims, i.e., it is a peoples’ state. That is a matter, I desire the honourable Leader of the House to clarify so that in future we may decide our line of action and know our position also in the State.” Liaquat Ali and his cohorts obviously indulged in obfuscating the point, their pandering to the clergy, the mullahs and ulemas had started, what they wanted was a purely Islamic state in which the non-Muslims would be treated as captive population without equal rights and opportunities.

In 1952, a good six years after Pakistan was formed and two years after the Nehru-Liaquat Pact was signed, Bhupendra Kumar Datta, observed how a systematic boycott of the minorities was still taking place, in Pakistan. Speaking of how circulars were being issued to prevent firms from hiring “non-Muslims”, “Then went out another circular,” noted Datta, “asking heads of many commercial firms to obtain the approval of the District Magistrates before giving employment to any non-Muslims. Few firms would undertake the trouble of obtaining the District Magistrate’s approval for favouring a non-Muslim with a job…The latest came a few months back. It was addressed to all District Magistrates, a 14-page circular. It instructed them by no means to return the lands and properties to the returning migrants but to distribute them among the refugees. The returning migrants were to be put off on some excuse or other. The first excuse was to be that the claim was time-barred…”

“Some of our minority representatives often say that the worst problem for the minorities in Pakistan is educational”, said Datta, “That problem is doubtless there. But to me the basic problem is that of livelihood. Practically all sources of livelihood have been and are being closed to them. Government jobs, jobs in private firms; they are not to have. In the professions there has been a silent campaign of boycott, often encouraged by officials and non-officials. Control shops, licences for motor buses and taxis the Hindus have very quickly been deprived of. Formerly, some of them had agencies for the various oil companies, The Imperial Tobacco Co., the I.C.I. and other such firms. They have almost all changed hands. If they are some professors or schoolmasters, as soon as a fresh graduate is available to replace an experienced MA, some fault is found with the latter, in the long run, he would be accused of anti-State propensities. If he does not get into other troubles, he must, at least, give up his job and run for safety across the border. This has happened even to many village postmasters…”

Pakistan’s first Law Minister and respected Dalit leader Jogendranath Mandal’s historic resignation letter of October 9, 1950, is well known, at least among those who have studied this episode and have themselves experienced it. The letter runs into nearly twenty pages and with great prescience and graphic detail describes the present and the future of minorities in Pakistan, especially in its eastern wing.

It is interesting to note that on May 25, 1950, more than a month after the Nehru-Liaquat Pact was signed, Mandal’s assessment of the Pact’s failure and his description of the deteriorating conditions of minorities in Pakistan were same as Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee. In a confidential conversation with the Calcutta correspondent of The Hindu, T.V.Venkatraman, “The Hindus in East Bengal”, Mandal told his interlocutor, “to a man are emphatic that they have no place in Pakistan and are determined to leave. I have advised them to wait for a few weeks more and that I too am prepared to accompany them to India.”

A disillusioned Mandal was to resign in October that year, his following observations should have shaken the then Indian establishment, “So long I have been claiming to be a representative only of the Scheduled Castes but after what I have seen and heard, I feel I can speak for the entire Hindu community there…I have informed Delhi that it is only a question of time before the last Hindu reaches India from East Bengal. You must be prepared to receive us and rehabilitate us…If India is not prepared to do this, we shall appeal to the world, become Buddhists, Christians but we will not submit to a slow process of Islamisation…There is a feeling in Pakistan that the Delhi Pact provides breathing time for Pakistan or to put it bluntly, to make Pakistan a permanent lasting fact…India should not be foolish enough to believe that after driving out the Hindus, Pakistan will live in peace with India…I caution India to be on the alert and not to be complacent and think that Pakistan will adhere to the Delhi Pact or any pact.”

This is exactly what those who had opposed the Pact in India had also highlighted. In fact, interestingly, on May 3, 1950, nearly a month after the Pact was inked, Sri Aurobindo, writing to a close disciple editor who was then editing a well-known weekly from Mumbai, observed that he regarded the Pact, as “an exceedingly clever move of Liaquat Ali to fish his nation out of the desperate situation into which it had run itself and to secure its safe survival.”

Those opposing CAA, deliberately, for the purposes of consolidating their hold on a particular vote-bank, ought to recall or be told of the experiences of those we have extensively cited above. None of those from whose interventions and memorandums we have quoted, Bhupendra Kumar Datta, Sris Chandra Chattopadhyay, Trailokyanath Chakravarty, to name a few, were not members of the RSS.Those opposing are indulging in a second round of betrayal and are attempting to strengthen elements whose political ideology and belief is similar to those who had cleansed Pakistan of its minorities.

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