Citizenship Amendment Act and Religious Minorities in South Asia

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At the beginning of the new year, there were reports of two disturbing incidents across the border from Pakistan. The first was an attack on Nankana Sahib Gurdwara, the birthplace of Guru Nanak (attack on Nankana Sahib). One report said that the target of the attackers was to desecrate this holy site, while according to another report, there was violence between two groups of Muslims there. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the incident and the main accused Imran Chishti was arrested. The case was related to the kidnapping and forced conversion of Jagjit Kaur, the girl of the Panthi of Gurudwara (a person reciting the holy Gurugranth Sahib). The second incident was the murder of a Sikh youth named Ravinder Singh in Peshawar. He was shot while he was shopping for his wedding.

How could the BJP miss out on taking political advantage of these two highly reprehensible attacks on the minority Sikh community in Pakistan. The party immediately said that due to similar incidents, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is necessary.
CAA is a law based on discrimination and associates citizenship with religion, which is not in accordance with our constitutional values. The issue of CAA is being debated across the country. Meanwhile, it is being widely publicized that there has been a huge decline in the population of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that at the time of partition of the country, the percentage of Hindus in the population of Pakistan has decreased to 23 which is now 3.7. The Hindu population of Bangladesh has also come down from 22 percent to 8 percent.

There is no doubt that in these two countries minorities are not being treated fairly and judiciously, but the figures which are being told are also not correct. It is not being told what effect the migration and the creation of Bangladesh had on the Hindu population of Pakistan. The first census in Pakistan was done in 1951. According to this census, the percentage of non-Muslims in the entire country (including East and West Pakistan) was 14.2. This percentage was 3.44 in West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) and 23.2 in East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh). In the 1998 census of Pakistan, the percentage of non-Muslims there was found to be 3.72. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, the population of non-Muslims fell from 23.2 percent (1951) to 9.6 percent (2011).

The largest minority community in Pakistan is Ahmadiyya. There are about 40 lakh Ahmadiyas in the country and they are not considered Muslims in Pakistan. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, due to the atrocities of the Pakistan Army, a large number of Hindus fled from there. Pakistan’s army created a massacre in Bangladesh when it was part of Pakistan.

According to UN data, between 2016 and 2019, the number of refugees in India increased by 17 percent and the largest number of them are Tibetans and Sri Lankan residents.
The status of minorities in any country is a measure of the strength of democracy in that country. Most South Asian countries have failed to protect democratic values. At the time of the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah had announced in his historical speech that secularism would be the central element of the new republic. While addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, Jinnah had said on 11 August 1947 that the policy of the state should be such that people of all religions should have the freedom to follow their faith. But soon there was that ‘two-nation theory’, which was the basis of the creation of Pakistan. In the country, the army established its tremendous dominance and dictators became the rule there. Those who supported democracy began to be oppressed. The worst phase of Pakistan was the rule of Zia-ul-Haq. Zia together with the Mullahs Islamized the country. The army was already powerful there. It is generally said that Pakistan is ruled by three ‘A’ – Army, America and Allah (Mullah).

Bangladesh caught another route. His construction was the last nail in the coffin of the two-nation theory. From this it proved that religion can never be the basis of a nation. Bangladesh was formed as a secular country. There continued to be a struggle between communal and secular forces and eventually in 1988, it became an Islamic republic. Myanmar is trapped in the clutches of military dictatorship and the democratic forces there are going through a difficult phase. There is also rule of army and (Buddhist) unions and as a result Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted.

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