Awarding citizenship rights to non-Muslim refugees from the three neighbouring Muslim countries on a fast track mode would be a long due and befitting penance for the entire nation. Even after seven long decades, our national leaders have miserably failed in fulfilling their promise that Partition victims would be given protection in the land that they considered their own. It is these people who had sacrificed their very existence for the sake of a fractured Independence even as the saga has continued for generations.
Right from the first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to the last Congress prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, all were opportunistically oblivious of the promise they made during the turbulent times of the Partition.
1947 was a nightmarish curse both for the Hindus and Muslims, particularly so on the Bengal front. But there is no denying the fact that the Hindus, even after 70 years, are the worst sufferers. Muslims also bled profusely, they were also rendered homeless, but ultimately they could acquire a country of their own where they can speak in their own mother language and fearlessly practice the religion they believe in. But the Hindus are stripped off their freedom – both in these Muslim countries as well as in some parts of India.
India achieved her truncated independence on the basis of the ‘two nation theory’. In direct contrast to it, the birth of Bangladesh was, in the true sense, a celebration of the victory of linguistic fraternity over religious identity. But the seed of communal polarization, sown by the Partition, was hard to be rooted out. And as time rolled on, reality began to resurface. The reality of communal polarization. Newly-born Bangladesh spared little time to convert itself from a secular nation of Bengalis, both Muslims and Hindus, to an Islamic state.
Bangladesh has a very strong, distinctly articulated and proficiently influential presence of secular, liberal intelligentsia which unfailingly dares to confront the evil nexus of politics and religious fundamentalism. But unfortunately, this sane voice of the liberal progressive forces has not succeeded in instilling confidence and a sense of belongingness among the minority Hindus.
News of scripted torture on the Hindus, and calculated inactivity of the authority does not cease to pour in from various parts of Bangladesh. The Partition-cursed Hindus are forced to believe that they are the poor minority at the mercy of their Muslim masters. The 1947 Partition constantly haunts them, and sends them to a state of insecurity and the resultant alienation. Presence of Hindus in Bangladesh has been in a descending mode even before the bifurcated Independence officially signed in 1947.
These statistics of the non-Muslim exodus from Pakistan, erstwhile East Pakistan and subsequently Bangladesh, have a direct impact on the society and politics of various states, particularly states like Assam. Settlement or to be precise, dealing with the refugees of East Bengal origin, is the pivotal issue of Assam’s society as well as politics.
Bengalis in Assam as well as in the entire Northeast are the worst sufferers as the nation has, for reasons best known to it, has failed a formulate a policy to rehabilitate the displaced non-Muslims from the neighbouring countries. Our political masters have tactfully ignored the fact that these non-Muslim refugees are not illegal infiltrators, rather they had to migrate from one part of the country to another part, and that too on the basis of the promise of the national leaders.
Rehabilitation of the displaced minorities from the neighbouring Muslim countries, unfortunately, remains a legal and political issue in India, but it should have been treated on the humanitarian ground. Our political masters intentionally kept the issue burning to reap dividends in the elections.
A state like Assam is the best example. For long 40 years, the entire society and politics of the state, which shares borders with Bangladesh, had been regulated by a fallacious theory that lakhs and lakhs of Bangladeshi infiltrators have settled in the state and that the Assamese culture and language are under threat of their aggression and eventually with the increasing numbers, the “Bangladeshi” would very soon usurp political power too.
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the political outfit of the Assamese ultranationalists was in the power for two terms but could not detect even one lakh Bangladeshis. But for the last four decades, this witch-hunt for the “Bangladeshi”, which now turns out to be “Hindu Bangladeshi”, remains the pivotal issue in the state. And Hindu Bengalis, residing for generations in the state, are the worst sufferers.
A strict law should immediately be adopted to pull the curtains down by awarding citizenship rights to the non-Muslim refugees from the neighbouring Muslim countries, to atone for the sin our national leaders committed 70 years back. It would be the ultimate penance for those who have lost their motherland and dignity so that their fellow countrymen could live in an Independent country with their head held high.
The writer is editor, Jugasankha, a leading Bengali media group
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