There’s no room for discrimination on the basis of Religion in India~By Kavita Khanna

Might is not always right, nor are government interventions, simply because they are defendable with obtuse clinical logic. a case in point is the recently passed citizenship (Amendment) Act,2019,”CAA”

My heart sank when I learnt on 9 December 2019, that the Citizenship Amendment Bill had excluded illegal Muslim immigrants from amnesty and citizenship, because of their faith. The Bill sought to grant citizenship to illegal Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian migrants from  Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, if they had sought refuge in India before 2015,and had claimed to have suffered religious persecution in their Islamic countries. I couldn’t fathom why Muslims had been made an exception when, from the time of the passing of the prophet Muhammad, Muslims have Killed Muslims in violent internecine wars, and Muslim minorities continue to be targeted slaughtered and persecuted by their majoritarian counterparts including in India’s neighbourhood.

A very brief recap of history will give a context as to how this has impacted us in South Asia. In the succession battles after the prophet Mohammed passed away, his followers splintered into factions the most prominent being the Sunnis, (now about 85% of all Muslims), and the Shias, (the balance 15%). In the last few decades, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran have used  Isla’s schism, that has been on the boil for fourteen centuries to advance their own socio economic and political agendas in the Middle East, leading to an escalation in tensions and conflicts in the region.

    After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran it’s leader Ayatollah khomeini supported groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, amongst other nations that had specific Shia agendas. Almost simultaneously , in 1980 President of Pakistan, Zia UI Haq, supported by Sunni Saudi Arabia, imposed Sunni laws on all Muslims in Pakistan, leading to a sectarian conforntation between Pakistan’s Sunnis and Shias. The religious persecution that Pakistan Shia’s suffered in the aftermath of President Zia’s imposition of Sharia law is well documented. The Council on Foreign Relations, “CFR, as well as the Human Rights Watch.”HRW  ” through its Report ” Pakistan Rampant   Killings of Shia by Extremists” have each independently recorded that “Sunni groups such as Lashkar e Jhangvi and Sipah e Sahaba, funded by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, killed thousands of Shias over the next three decades.” In 2014, HRW in its Report ” We are the Walking Dead Killings of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan, Pakistan,” documented that “Since 2008, several hundreds of Hazara have been killed in steadily worsening targeted violence.”Brain Adams , Asia Director of HRW said of Pakistan “There is no travel route, no shopping trip, no school run, no work commute that is safe for the Hazara. The government’s failure to put an end to these attacks is as shocking as it is unacceptable.”

       In the face of irrefutable evidence that in Pakistan the majoritarian sunnies have persecuted and massacred Muslim minorities, it is facile and misleading to base a law on the false premise that Muslims cannot be persecuted in an Islamic state. Why has our government done this?

Have we, as a nation, decided that our compassion to those who suffer religious or other persecution, will be selectively based on their faith? I do not believe so, for it  would go against a truth ingrained in the heart of India.”Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” For centuries India has sheltered and allowed persecuted  minorities to make this nation their home.

      The Parsis and the Jews are cases in point. The World Economic Forum recently adocumented India as a migration superpower. It is my guess that another of our great Indian traditions, “Atithi Devo Bhava”, maening the guest is God, has made India one of the world’s top destinations for international migrants. It disturbs me enormously that through one Act the CAA, in one fell swoop, our government seems to be abandoning our nation’s guiding principles of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Atithi Devo Bhava.

     I believe it is not just what you do, but also how you do it that matters. With India’s Muslims constituting roughly15%of our population approximately 200 million Muslim are citizens of India. i am sure our at least a significant number, if not all of them, would have felt hurt, alienated or angry that their Muslim brethren have been unilaterally singled out as the only community which having suffered “religious persecution in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, is barred from citizenship just because they are Muslim. It is the uttter brazenness and complete lack of empathy with which Muslim sentiments have been ignored that further irks me.

      Assuming for the sake of argument that most Muslims were not as affected as I was by the blatantly discriminatory CAA, it is impossible to refute that at least a very tiny minority of Muslims were incensed by it. Given the history and evidence of radicalisation of estranged minorities who feel unjustly targeted and discriminated against, was it wise to leave our persecuted Muslims, from our neighbouring Islamic states, from the ambit of the CAA? Why did the CAA not just refer to persecutes minorities? I strongly advocate this amendment to the CAA.

      I put my hope in our Prime Minister because he went on record and publicly distanced himself and his govt from any public proclamation  concerning the National Citizen’s Register “NRC” and because he said in 2016 “Indian culture is very rich and has inculcated in each one of us with great values, we are the people who have come from Aham Brahmasmmmim to Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam respects all forms of life on our planet and leaves no room for discrimination on the grounds of religion. I look to our Prime Minister to heed the voices that are protesting against the CAA, to engage with them and to heal the Schism of the CAA.

       I appeal to the Prime Minister to recognise that for almost all Indians is the India of Amar, Akbar and Anthony in which there is no room for discrimination in law, or otherwise, on the basis of religion. And finally, I put my trust in our Honourable Supreme Court, and humbly and respectfully ask them to consider whether the review of the CAA is a fit case for equity and law rather than just law.

Kavita Vinod Khanna is an LSE graduate and a Barrister from Lincoln’s Inn. She was a Partner in the legal firm, Economic Laws practice and has Headed HRD Committees for ASSOCHAM, CII and Indian Merchants Chamber. 

Close Menu