“The political condition of a stateless person is much worse than that of a political prisoner. The person loses more than his or her freedom…he or she loses the “right to have rights”. A stateless person represents ‘a new kind of human being’ – the kind that are put in concentration camps by their foes and in internment camps by their friends.”
— Hannah Arendt, political theorist in “Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)
“…..the Hindu idea of nationalism was definitely one of Hindu nationalism. It was not easy….to draw a sharp line between this Hindu nationalism and true nationalism. The two overlapped as India is the only home of the Hindus and they form a majority there.”
— Jawaharlal Nehru, in “Glimpses of World History”, (OUP : 1985, p. 677)
‘Being stateless’, is indeed, a dehumanizing condition which is but a historical fact of bloody partition of undivided India on religious ground. Both Muslim League headed by M.A Jinnah and the Indian National Congress led by Gandhi-Nehru-Sardar accepted it, after exhausting all possible options for mutual reconcialations. But this does not negate the fact that the Congress was as much an equal colloborator with Muslim League in the process. By accepting communal ‘separate electorate’ exclusively for Muslims in order to appease the newly created Muslim League, first given in 1909 via Morley-Minto Reforms and further buttressed by the Congress post-Luknow pact of 1916 onwards till 1946, sowed the seed of ‘Muslim separatism’, leading to the communal partition in 1947. From supporting medievalistic, communal Khilafat movement to being silent spectator of Hindu genocide by Muslim Moplahs of Malabar in 1921, Congress did almost everything to appaese Muslim League’s wholly unjustified, insatiable demands one after the other, while pretending itself to be “truly secular”, all along, towards India’s own peril !
Whereas Gandhi’s Congress “claimed” to represent the ‘hopes and aspirations of all Indians across caste-creed-religion’, Jinnah’s Muslim League proudly called itself to be “the sole-spokersperson for all Muslims” across undivided-India, as empirically vindicated in 1946 elections. Jinnah called Congress as ‘Hindu Congress’, representing only the ‘caste-Hindus’ out to impose ‘Hindu Raj’ on Muslims ! Hence, Jinnah called for partition of India on the basis of his ‘Two-Nation Theory’, espousing the fact that both Hindus and Muslims are two wholly ‘different people or nations’ with irreconcilable worldviews. Thus, by ‘agreeing to partition’, as Maulana Azad warned Nehru, “history’s verdict would be that India was divided not by the Muslim League but by Congress.” (“India Wins Freedom”, Orient Black Swan : 2018, p 176).
While Dr. B.R. Ambedkar realistically argued for mutual, total and doable ‘transfer of population’ of religious minorities living across the ‘Radcliffe Line’ in “Thoughts on Pakistan”, as communal partition’s ‘natural corollary’, which both PM Attlee and Jinnah agreed to but fully opposed by Gandhi-Nehru as (false) test of Congress’s “secularhood” ! Today, it is costing India heavily as the ‘Muslim problem/question’, the only casus belli of partition remained unresolved.
Following Muslim League’s untold gangsterism in Calcutta, masquaraded as ‘Direct Action’ in August, 1946 threatening ‘accept partition or face more bloodbaths’, Nehru’s subsequent ‘Interim Government’ was, thus, become ‘provisional circus’! Consequently, Lord Mountbatten announced ‘Dicky Bird’ Plan (‘Partition Plan’) on 3rd June, 1947 fixing August 15, 1947 as day of ‘transfer of power’ to the both ‘Dominion of Pakistan’ (i.e. National Homeland for Muslims) and ‘Dominion of Hindusthan/India’ (i.e. National Homeland for Hindus etc) as hastily and wrongly demarcated by Mr Radcliffe, e.g. Chittagong with 97% Buddhists etc given to Pakistan!
Due to such uncalled hurry, what followed was history’s bloodiest refugee crises with over one million people rendered ‘stateless’ overnight and over one million butchered, with India being worst hit by incessant flows of persecuted Hindu, Sikh etc refugees pouring across India’s territories. It will be worth reminding here, what the Congress, Bapu and Nehru said on the ‘treatment of persecuted Hindus, Sikhs etal refugees’ by the Indian State, as Islamic Pakistan became an ‘accursed State’ for its minorities, so said by J.N. Mandal, Pak’s first Law Minister !
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) adopted a Resolution on November 25, 1947, “The Congress is bound to afford full protection to all those non-Muslims from Pakistan who have crossed the border and come over to India or may do so to save their life and honour.” Bapu ‘promised’ in his prayer meetings on 16 July and 26 September, 1947, “The Hindus and the Sikhs staying in Pakistan, can come to India by all means, if, they do not wish to continue there. In that case, it is the first duty of the Indian government to give them jobs and make their lives comfortable…(India) will be to accept them with broth arms and extended to them all legitimate opportunities. They should be made to feel that they have not come to an alien land’’. (CWMG, Vol. 96). Nehru said, “We also think of our brothers and sisters cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.” [“Independence and After” (Selected Speeches of Nehru, Vol. I), 1949, p.14). Further, speaking in Parliament on 5th November, 1950, PM Nehru said, “The Hon. Members referred to the question of citizenship. There is no doubt, of course, that those displaced persons who have come to settle in India are bound to have the citizenship. If the law is inadequate in this respect, the law should be changed.” (Selected Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. II, 1949-’53).
Participating in the Constituent Assembly Debates on Citizenship (11-12 August, 1949), Dr P.S Desmukh said, “I want to make a provision that every person who is a Hindu or a Sikh and is not a citizen of any other State shall be entitled to be a citizen of India. …By the mere fact that he is a Hindu or a Sikh, he should get Indian citizenship because it is this one circumstance that makes him disliked by others….If the Muslims want an exclusive place for themselves called Pakistan, why should not Hindus and Sikhs have India as their home?” Rohini Kumar Chauduri, of then undivided Assam, inter alia, said, “…I want citizenship rights to this class of people, who have originally belonged to Sylhet in the province of Assam, who, long before the partition, have come to the Assam Valley as a citizen of that province and are staying in the present province of Assam..” Also then LoP in Rajya Sabha, Dr Manmohan Singh on 18 December, 2003 and then CM of Assam, Tarun Gogoi (Cabinet Resolution of 16 July, 2014) wanted citizenship for partition’s ‘stateless victims’, too! Even then General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Comrade Prakash Karat wrote a letter to the then PM of India, Dr Manmohan Singh in 2012, strongly demanding citizenship to the persecuted religious minorities (comprising mostly Dalit or Scheduled Caste Hindus viz Sahiwals, Namo-Shudras etc) from Pakistan and Bangladesh at the earliest, which was also endorsed by Party’s Kozhikode resolution.
The consistency of ruling Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP) with Hindutva ideology in demanding and now implementing citizenship for the persecuted religious minorities of erstwhile undivided India (i.e. pre- 3rd June, 1947 India) is totally in contrast with the volte-face of the Congress and the Communist/Left parties now. If they are now blaming BJP for playing “Hindu vote-bank” politics, weren’t they be equally blamed with same allegation in recent past ?
To conclude, today the Indian State is only fulfilling its historical or civilizational commitment in granting Indian Citizenship to the religiously persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc Stateless people or refugees from Islamic States of Af-Pak and Bangladesh for whom India is their only beloved ‘Homeland’ in the world. It is truly inclusive, fully secular and in tune with the ‘principle of non-refoulement’ (i.e. the practice of not forcing refugees to return to a country in which they are liable to be persecuted) of international law in addressing the question of reducing Statelessness globally.
However, the State also has to resolve issues of primordial-identity concerns and its full protection, especially that of Assam and the North-Eastern Region (NER). So, while doing so, the State has to equally fulfill its constitutional imperative of safeguarding the genuine and sensitive issues of (protection of )‘identity’ concerns, as legitimately raised by the people and civil societies of Assam and the NER states, having precarious religious, linguistic and ethnic demography. This calls for re-negotiating the latest amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955 with all the stakeholders of the region by the present regime at the Centre, with raising of such issues like a single, uniform inner-line permit (ILP) for whole NER, implementation of ‘Clause 6’ of the Assam Accord etc. Unto this, the Indian State should take a call at the earliest, lest, foreign funded divisive forces will find alibi to flare violent mob frenzy in India’s strategic Northeastern region.
(Assistant Professor, Political Science, D.K. College, Gauhati University, Assam.)