Rajat Sharma

Minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan can now breath a fresh air of life

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday night passed, by 125-99 majority, the landmark Citizenship Amendment Bill clearing the path for giving citizenship to Hindus and five other minorities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Bill will become law once the President gives his assent.

Now that the acrimonious debates are over, one should understand the implications of this new law.

Lakhs of minorities who have come from these three neighbouring countries to take refuge in India, are hiding from the arms of law. They used to hide their identities lest they could be sent back to their countries of origin. These people will finally breathe an air of relief. They can now come out in the open, disclose their identities and apply for Indian citizenship. Finally, people who were forced to take refuge from religious persecution can now live a new life.

Imagine the level of fear in the minds of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis who were forced to take refuge in India due to religious persecution in the three neighbouring countries.

Their womenfolk used to constantly live in fear, lest they could be subjected to sexual assault, kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam. These refugees, being stateless, were deprived of the benefits of education, jobs and right to vote since they had not been granted Indian citizenship. This new law, brought in humanitarian interest, will grant them citizenship so that they can lead a life of freedom, free from intimidation on grounds of religion.

People of Assam have nothing to fear from this Bill as it will not affect the demography, culture, language and job situation there. Similarly, people in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh have nothing to fear from the Bill, as the inner line permit system is there to protect the local people from entry of outsiders.

Home Minister Amit Shah has pointed out one important aspect, that this Bill is for granting citizenship, and not for revoking citizenship. Muslims living in India have nothing to fear from this Bill. This law is not going to affect their lives, education, jobs or citizenship is any way. Muslims should not listen to falsehood and rumours being circulated by vested interest groups.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed and army has been called out in Guwahati and Dibrugarh of Assam, after protests against CAB turned violent. Internet has been suspended in most parts of Assam and Tripura. The situation is truly a matter of serious concern. The Centre, in close coordination with the state governments, must try to dispel fear from the minds of people of Assam and other North Eastern states.

One can understand that the fear has emanated mainly because of NRC (National Register of Citizens) that has been introduced in Assam. Both the issues are completely different. The NRC is meant for identifying migrants who have entered India illegally, while the CAB is meant for granting citizenship to minorities from Islamic states like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have taken refuge in India.

The CAB is not going to affect the jobs of Assamese in any manner. The Centre should reach out to Assamese students and youths and dispel all apprehensions. Simultaneously, rumour mongers must be taken to task.

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