It  is mischievous to imply that the proposed bill to grant citizenship  to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists from other nations  implies that Muslims and Christians are not Indians, says Sanjeev  Nayyar.

This  article aims to make out a case as to why the Government of India  must allow persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs currently  abroad to return to India, and is a rejoinder to Aakar  Patel's column http://www.rediff.com/news/column/no-place-in-india-for-muslims-fleeing-religious-persecution/20150812.htm

'The  government plans to introduce legislation that would make it easy for  Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sikhs and Jains to  migrate legally to India. What about Muslims? They seem to have been  specifically left out of this formulation,' Aakar  Patel asked in his column.

I  believe the time has come to introduce such a legislation. Here is  why:

India  is the birthplace of dharma -- Sanatan, Baudh, Jaina and Sikh dharma,  the nine schools of Indian darsana (philosophy) and home to Eastern spirituality.

For  the 'Followers of Dharma'  or FoD, India is where their rishis, munis  and gurus lived and where their principal places of worship exist.

So  when persecuted elsewhere, India is naturally the country they choose  to return to. The large-scale migration of Sikhs after the violence  that broke out after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, for  instance, or the continuous migration of Hindus from Bangladesh.

There  is no other country where they can take refuge. India is the only  land for such people.

That  is why Veer Savarkar defined as a Hindu 'one who regarded India from  the Indus to the seas as his fatherland and holy land.'

Savarkar's  definition included Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. This thinking was  confirmed post Independence when the 'Followers of Dharma'  were covered by the Hindu Marriage Act.

Such  a law as is being contemplated is required because the FoD in  Pakistan and Bangladesh are persecuted. The population of followers  of Indian-born religions in Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan; before  that part of undivided Punjab) was 15.9 per cent in 1901, it went up  to 19.7 per cent in 1941, came down to 1.6 per cent in 1951 and  settled at a meagre 1.8 per cent in 1998. @

The  corresponding figures for Bangladesh (previously East Pakistan; prior  to that, East Bengal) was a weighty 33.9 per cent in 1901, came down  to 29.6 per cent in 1941, continued its fall to 14.3 per cent in  1971, and finally ending at 9.3 per cent in 2011. @

Also,  Islam and Christianity originated outside India. When their followers  are persecuted, they can get asylum in the Muslim and Christian  nations as we are seeing in Germany today.

It  is because of their religion's foreign origins that a perusal of the  remittances made under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act shows  foreign Christian organisations remitting billions of dollars to  Indian ones, unlike FoD who receive money from the NRI populace.  Ditto for Muslims.

It  is for similar reasons that while considering the conversion of his  followers to Sikhism, Dr B R Ambedkar declared, 'If the depressed  classes join Islam and Christianity, they not only go out of Hindu  religion, but they also go out of Hindu culture and it will  denationalise the depressed classes'. (Page  279, Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission by Dhananjay Keer).

Lastly,  there is much violence in many parts of the Muslim world. This  results in ordinary people fleeing to safer countries as we are  witnessing today. The refugees would add to India's fiscal burden and  create social tensions because of demographic changes.

Aakar  Patel also made two interesting observations in his column.

One,  How will the government introduce language into the laws which  exclude those of a specific religion?

Two,  he observed that Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution read:  'Equality before law: The State shall not deny to any person equality  before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the  territory of India. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of  religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth: The State shall not  discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race,  caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.'

There  is nothing wrong in excluding those who belong to a specific  religion. India was partitioned on religious lines in 1947. Those  Muslims who wanted to live in Pakistan left India, a decision they  voluntarily made. Just because some of them are being persecuted  today does not give them the option of returning to India, a country  their forefathers left for good.

With  respect to Muslims from Bangladesh the situation is different. India  is a victim of illegal Bangladeshi immigration, primarily Muslim, for  years. The Assam agitation of the 1980s was in response to the  demographic changes brought about by such migration. The situation  has worsened since then with Bangladeshis now residing in virtually  every part of India.

The  honourable Supreme Court too had expressed concern on such illegal  immigration in December 2014.

With  respect to Aakar Patel's second observation, we have, since 1950,  lived with a carefully nurtured myth that all Indians are 'Equal  before Law' and religion is not the basis for any government  decision. A few examples of inequality:

- One, Hindus are not allowed to manage and control their temples unlike other communities.
- Two, donations made by Hindus to temples become part of the state treasury (especially in southern states) and are used for general expenditure. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in 2003, 'There are as many as two lakh temples in Karnataka and the total income of these temples amounts to Rs 72 crore. Only a sum of Rs 6 crore is being spent by the government for their upkeep. On the other hand, the government spent a phenomenal amount of Rs 50 crore for the madrasas and Rs 10 crore for the churches.'
- Three, grant of scholarships, interest subsidy, lump-sum payment for nikaah, Haj subsidies, salary to imams, free cycles etc, were all made on the basis of religion.
- Four, by virtue of being divorced on the basis of triple talaq, do Muslim women have the same rights as other Indian women?

It  would be mischievous to imply that the purpose of the proposed bill  is to say that Muslims and Christians are not Indians.

Colonial  concepts like secularism and minority, both of which are not defined  in the Constitution, have divided India for over 75 years.

Alternatively,  the people of India can imbibe the meaning of Bharat, the Hindi name  of our country, to break down man-made barriers so that 1.2 billion  Indians see all others as equals.

Bharat  means 'devoted to knowledge'. As originally understood, knowledge was  about the inner self and its relationship with the external world.

In  a contemporary sense, knowing our inner self-true nature helps you  focus on things you excel at, realise one's potential and is a  gateway to progress.

@ Religious  Demography of India 2001 Revision by A P Joshi, M D Srinivas and J K  Bajaj published by Centre for Policy Studies Chennai

First  published Click here

Also  read
1. Why post-independent India is at odds with its true nature
2. Why Secularism is not an Indian concept
3. Who is a Minority