It is an unfortunate reality that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in many countries suffer religious persecution. Since India is the Motherland of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, it is natural that the persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs not only look up to India for succor but often escape to India.
But the disquieting fact is that huge number of Hindus who managed to escape religious persecution and reach India have been languishing in refugee camps for want of citizenship. In the given circumstances it is just impossible for them to go back to their erstwhile homelands, and if they venture to do so they will have to lose either their religion or life. Though it goes without saying that India has a civilizational responsibility towards the Indian origin religions and its adherents, but it has all these years shirked that onerous responsibility by shutting its eyes, ears and mouth to the genocidal persecution of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs in many countries. The genocidal disappearance of millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs not only in our neighbourhood but elsewhere has not stirred the conscience of our successive leadership speaks volumes about the state of affairs and their humanitarian concern. It is therefore high time that the Indian State starts discharging its civilisational responsibility of providing succor to the persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs form any country by making suitable legal arrangements and policy interventions.
It is heartening to note that BJP in its Election Manifesto-2014 has promised, “India shall remain a natural home for persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here.” In pursuance thereof, the Central Govt introduced in Lok Sabha a Bill in 2016 to amend the Citizenship Act, which having been referred to a Select Committee, is pending. The Bill in its current form has certain difficulties. Firstly, it falls short of requirement as it deals with persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan only. It should include persecuted adherents of Indian origin religions from any country. Secondly, there was no need to include Christians in the said Bill as India is not the natural home for Christians unlike for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs who are followers of Indian origin religions. Further, there are more than 100 Christian countries and they can seek refuge in any of them. Thirdly, there have been assertions that Bill’s constitutional validity would be challenged in the absence of an enabling provision in the Constitution to provide for enactment of such a law, which to a large extent is true. Hence, an enabling provision in the Constitution has to be inserted by constitutional amendment before a law of such nature is enacted. Fourthly, there is some opposition to the Bill from people of North Eastern States. In order to assuage any misgivings, the Central Govt should assure the people of North Eastern States that the persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs who will be granted citizenship will be encouraged to settle in other parts of the country than in North Eastern States. As such, even if the Bill in its current defective form falling short of the requirement becomes law, it may lead to avoidable strife and litigation which will hardly be of any help to the long suffering lakhs of Hindu, Buddhist refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.
There is thus an urgent necessity to immediately amend the Constitution by inserting the following new Article 11-A, and thereafter amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to all persecuted followers of Indian origin religions, namely Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs from any country. The Proviso to the proposed new Article 11-A is especially important as the primary basis for proposed grant of Indian citizenship is religious persecution of the person for his being a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh, and his conversion to any non-Indian origin religion at any time repudiates that very basis. In other words, if the person were not so much attached to his religion and were to convert to non-Indian origin religion subsequent to his getting Indian citizenship he could have done so and remained in his original homeland, and there was no need for him to move to India. Secondly, it is also aimed at people hoodwinking India and exploiting it as a conduit to falsely gain Indian citizenship.
Accordingly, the Central Govt is requested to take immediate action to (i) withdraw the defective Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 pending in Parliament; (ii) amend the Constitution by inserting the following new Article; and thereafter (iii) amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 by introducing a new Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2018 taking in to consideration all the above mentioned points, in the forthcoming session of the current Parliament itself.
“Article 11-A: Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, and in discharge of civilizational responsibility of India towards the Indian origin religions namely, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, Parliament may by law provide for expeditious granting of citizenship to the persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs from any country.
Provided that if a persecuted Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh who has been granted citizenship converts at any time to any non-Indian origin religion:
(i) his citizenship shall become void forthwith;
(ii) he shall stand dismissed forthwith from any public office or public employment;
(iii) all his moveable or immoveable properties shall stand forfeited to Government of India forthwith; and
(iv) he is forbidden from owning or acquiring in any manner any moveable or immoveable property.”