In 2016, the phrase ‘post-truth’ made it to the English dictionary. It is defined as an adjective, relating to or denoting circumstances, in which objective facts are less influential in shaping of public opinion than appeals to emotion or personal belief.
Simply speaking, post-truth is basically disinformation which gathers a life of its own and then becomes a sort of truth by itself. Living in a world of delusion and false consciousness, those who preach post-truth basically think that others are ignorant fools.
In a recent interview with news agency PTI, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen peddled post-truth as he raised the bogey of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). “As far as I can see, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) purposes (by implementing CAA) is to reduce the role of minorities and make them less important and, in a direct and indirect way, increase the role of the Hindu majoritarian forces in India, and to that extent, undermine the minorities,” Professor Sen said.
The comments of the Nobel laureate economist on CAA need to be fact-checked. It is important that the new citizenship law must be read into a context and should be looked at in an impartial manner.
Article 11 of the Indian Constitution gives the power to the Parliament of India for making any provision with respect to the acquisition of citizenship for foreign nationals on the basis of a law.
The CAA provides a path for Indian citizenship to six religious minorities – namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – who are compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of such persecution in the neighbouring countries.
It is pertinent to understand why such legislation was necessitated. Historically in 1947, India was divided on religious lines and Pakistan was formed as an Islamic country. In 1950, India and Pakistan signed the Nehru-Liaquat Pact, which sought to guarantee “the rights of the religious minorities” in both countries. But while secular India always stands by its commitment to protect its minorities, Pakistan has never bothered to keep the spirit of the pact.
Subsequently, in 1971, East Pakistan was carved out as Bangladesh. Following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, the religious minorities in Bangladesh had to suffer a lot.
Consequently, during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan – from 1996 to 2001 – the religious minorities in the neighbouring country were brutalised, thanks to state-sponsored oppression.
Having suffered discrimination and persecution on religious lines, these beleaguered religious minorities – of the three neighbouring countries – were forced to migrate to India from time to time, in search of a new home.
The CAA is a humanitarian measure, which aims at addressing the concerns of these persecuted religious minorities – from the three neighbouring countries – by giving them Indian citizenship.
As far as the minority status of these persecuted communities is concerned, the CAA is religiously neutral. In no way the new citizenship law touches the rights of any existing Indian citizen. Neither does the CAA aim at increasing the role of the majorities nor does it reduces the role of the minorities.
Professor Sen, in the PTI interview, further said, “It is very unfortunate for a country like India which is meant to be a secular, egalitarian nation and it has also been used for particularly unfortunate discriminatory action like declaring minorities, whether from Bangladesh or West Bengal, as foreign rather than indigenous. This is pretty demeaning and I would regard that to be a bad move basically.”
The Nobel laureate economist must understand a plain and simple logic that religious minorities differ from country to country, meaning a religious community which is a minority in Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan is a majority in India and vice versa.
Professor Sen must have had this in mind why the CAA excluded the majority of Muslims in the three neighbouring countries. He must simply understand that in sharp contrast to India, the neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan endorse Islam as their state religion. Hence, there is hardly any chance that Muslims of these Islamic Republic countries had to face religious persecution.
The economist should understand why the Muslims of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan should be distinguished from the Muslims of secular India. This is not to dispute that the Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are grown up in an environment which is essentially undemocratic and non-secular. They come from a tradition which is basically intolerant to other religious communities. That intolerant tradition and undemocratic environment is responsible for the persecution of religious minorities in neighbouring countries.
Therefore, India can’t extend citizenship to the Muslims of these three neighbouring countries per se, as that would pose a serious threat to the harmony, unity and diversity of the nation.
Professor Sen must understand that being the largest democracy in the world, it is the natural duty and responsibility of India to stand up for the persecuted religious minorities from its neighbourhood.
India has a long history of hosting the victims of persecution. The nation had opened its arms to the migrated Tibetians and Tamils and subsequently granted them citizenship. Similarly, India had accorded citizenship to the persecuted Hindus who came from Uganda. Centuries before India attained independence, persecuted Jews and Parsis had made the country their motherland. In that continuity, the CAA is giving constitutional dignity to the beleaguered religious minorities from our neighbourhood.
By correcting the historical wrongs, the CAA demonstrates the dharma of civilisational India, that is Bharat. But this doesn’t go down well with the likes of Amartya Sen who are busy peddling canards and fanning confusion about the new citizenship act. Their disinformation campaign shows they are opposed to the essence of civilisational India. Undoubtedly, the likes of Amartya Sen are indifferent to the plight of millions of beleaguered minorities from India’s neighbourhood.
The writer is a multimedia journalist having 17 years of experience, with 10 years in senior editorial positions. Views expressed are personal.
Read all the Latest Opinions here