Why are Hindu Bengalis celebrating notification of CAA

  • By Tapan Ganguli
  • March 14, 2024
  • 1364 views
Celebrations at Thakurnagar, North 24 Parganas district.
  • A 80 plus Bharatiya helps us understand, through an FAQ, the issues w.r.t. Bengali Refugees, Partition of Bengal and their support for CAA.  

The notification of CAA rules recently has once again brought its relevance to West Bengal in focus. The initial announcement of the CAA lead to major protests in West Bengal, allegedly fuelled by the ruling state government which made it known that it would not allow its existing vote bank of Muslim minorities to be disturbed.

 

With the protests spilling over to the national capital in March 2020, the issue became a flashpoint and the roadblocks were halted only by the COVID 19 pandemic, which disrupted life for the next 18 months. The CAA Rules would be applicable all over India, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu included (Citizenship is a Central subject).

 

The issues involving CAA in West Bengal are complex with lots of history. For easier understanding I am presenting matter in FAQ format.  

 

Q1. Partition Punjab-displacement got over by 1950? But got delayed in Bengal? Why?

The class of Muslims in Punjab and Bengal were different.

 

In Punjab, the city of Lahore was dominated by Hindus and Sikhs from the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839). When partition was announced, the Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab chose to cross over to East Punjab including Delhi and to start life afresh. Likewise, Muslims from Delhi, East Punjab and Northern India crossed over to Punjab. (Editor-My father’s mother was from Lahore. Father and both grandfathers studied in Lahore Medical College, all Punjabi Hindu and Sikh). 

 

The political value of the Punjab refugees was considerable and major parts of Delhi were set up to rehabilitate the refugees. By contrast, only one area of Delhi, Chittaranjan Park was set up as East Pakistan Displaced Persons Colony (EPDPC). In Calcutta (now Kolkata( unstructured colonies came up in the south and east) namely Baghajatin (named after the revolutionary), Netaji Nagar (named after Netaji Bose) and Bijoygarh (literally victory fort).

In Bengal, the landowners and gentry of East Pakistan were overwhelmingly Hindu but were given assurances by Nehru that they would be looked after post-independence. In 1950, a Nehru Liaqat pact was done by both heads of state that the respective minorities in India and Pakistan would be looked after and protected by the respective governments.

 

Senior journalist Sandhya Jain wrote, “As Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated in parliament (December 9, 2011), the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950 failed abysmally to protect minorities in Pakistan. Its first Law Minister, Jogendra Nath Mandal, who helped the Muslim League wrest Sylhet from Assam, fled to West Bengal the same year. Before independence, Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi prayer meeting, July 16, 1947) said if minorities were unable to live in Pakistan, “the duty of the adjoining province on this side of the border will be to accept them with both arms and extended to them all legitimate opportunities.”

 

By coincidence or otherwise, Liaqat Ali Khan (1891-1951) was assassinated the very next year. The pact lapsed and periodic pogroms continued against the Hindus of Bangladesh through the 1960s. The pact was relatively honoured in India as the Muslim League (set up in 1906) chose to protect the interests of the Indian Muslims and the state government of Bidhan Roy (1948-1962) also chose to safeguard the interests of Indian Muslims, many of whom decided not to move to East Pakistan.

 

Gradually the minority population of East Pakistan has fallen to 6% today. Sanjeev Nayyar wrote, “The population of Indics has continuously fallen in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). It was 23 per cent in 1951, 14 per cent in 1974, 11 per cent in 1991, 10 per cent in 2001 and 9.3 per cent in 2011.”

The borders are still porous and illegal infiltration continues till today. The Congress government at the centre and successive CPI (M) & TMC governments of West Bengal turned a blind eye to the infiltration in the name of vote bank politics.

 

“Districts such as Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas show a population growth rate that is higher than the overall population growth rate of the state,” wrote Jyoti Parimal Sarkar in her study Bangladeshi Migration to West Bengal: A Cause for Concern.”4 For population see table at end of article.

 

Read   Bangladeshi Infiltration into India and West Bengal     

 

Q2. What was the attitude of the Nehru government to refugees coming from East Pakistan to India (West Bengal)? Why has this matter simmered for decades?

For various reasons, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) had a pathological antipathy and deep dislike for the Bengali community. It came from a feeling that the community was anarchist and nihilistic and not really in line with his global outlook, which made him feel he was a pan Asian leader.

 

This was also the main reason why the Congress was not supportive of revolutionaries of Bengal between 1900 and 1945.

 

The maximum bloodshed and sacrifices happened from Bengal, but due to various reasons, the sacrifices were not acknowledged in post-independence India that was dominated by North India. Consequently, very little help was given was to refugees from East Pakistan as compared to refugees from West Pakistan. (i.e. modern day Pakistan).

 

Also read   Direct Action 1946 – Calcutta Horror  

 

In due course of time, the refugees were frustrated and overwhelmingly voted for a United Front government (coalition of 14 parties include CPI and CPI Marxists) in 1967. A decade of political violence and instability followed which destroyed the infrastructure and education system of the state. The dark ages of the state still continue today, despite the overthrow of the communists in 2011 and subsequent formation of left of centre TMC government which ensures that the central writ does not run in border areas of Bengal.   

 

Pratim Bose wrote in Moneycontrol.com, “Haimonti Roy of Dayton University in the US pointed out that by 1958, the Centre wound up refugee camps. But at the same time, they were engaged in diplomatic exchanges with East Pakistan about the sustained arrival of Hindu refugees. Nehru government was concerned that the sustained arrival of Hindus would change the demography of West Bengal, she said.

 

Bose added, “Back in 1951, while preparing the National Citizenship Register, the government clarified that refugees cannot be voters by default. West Bengal is full of undocumented refugees. And, politics devised a way to bypass the law, which had done irreparable damage to the social fabric and state politics.”

 

Read   Personal story of another Bengali refugee son on Twitter

 

Q3. Why are the Matuas celebrating notification of CAA rules? 

The Matuas are a class of persons who came from East Pakistan subsequent to 1971, as they realized that even the new republic of Bangladesh was not going to protect them. From 1971 to 1991, Bangladesh suffered widespread poverty and army rule, with systematic and regular persecution of Hindu minorities. The matuas gradually came over and settled in districts of Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad. Reports of persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh come in at regular intervals. Which other country will persecuted Hindus go to?  

 

The CAA enactment and notification mean that Matuas can become citizens of India. Of late, many Hindus in Bangladesh have opted to migrate to India and seek citizenship as they have realized that Bangladesh will be a dangerous place to live post Sheikh Hasina rule.

 

Q4. What about the Bengalis who came to WB around 1971? Do they benefit?

Bengalis from East Pakistan now Bangladesh, came to West Bengal in 1970-71 as they were forced by the army crackdown as part of Operation Searchlight (March 1971) which saw the large murder and annihilation of intellectuals in East Pakistan. Many came across the border to Kolkata, which saw a severe strain on its infrastructure. They stayed in makeshift camps in terrible conditions. Many also went to Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya and stayed there with stiff opposition from the locals.

 

However, by early to mid 1980’s all the refugees who had come around 1971 had got Indian citizenship. However, a large number of Matua Hindus came from Bangladesh post 1990 (end of General Ershad rule). 

 

Q5. How did documentation for Bengali refugees get mixed with illegal migration from Bangladesh starting the 1980-1990s?

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has been a constant factor with both Hindus and Muslims due to economic reasons and the absence of an educated middle class in Bangladesh, which is still non-existent 53 yrs after becoming an independent nation.

 

Read   Why Hindus give importance to education

 

Actually, reason for infiltration is more complex. Former Governor of Assam Lt Gen S K Sinha wrote to the President of India in his 1998 Report on Illegal Infiltration into Assam and said, “Mr. Abdul Momin, former Foreign Secretary and Bangladesh's first Ambassador to China wrote in 1991, "The runaway population growth in Bangladesh resulting in suffocating density of population in a territorially small country, presents a nightmarish picture. If we in Bangladesh ingratiate ourselves with the hill tribes within our borders, our bulging population might find a welcome in adjacent land inhabited by kindred Peoples.” 4

 

Illegal Bangladeshis immigrants are now all over India with West Bengal being their most prominent entry point. There are undocumented numbers of Bangladeshi labour living across India, causing serious problems of law and order as well as taking away work from locals.

 

Read    5 Bangladeshis nabbed after 100 burglaries  and Bangladeshi criminal nabbed in Delhi shoot out 

 

Q6. Why did Bangladesh and Pakistan want SC Matuas to stay back?

Pakistan has never really bothered itself with Scheduled Caste Matuas. The country has had immense political problems which now threaten to boil over, especially in the last few years when economic hardships, pariah status internationally now undermine the very existence of the Qaid E Azam created Islamic republic.

 

Read   Why Democracy has failed in Pakistan

 

Bangladesh has fared better economically but still faces serious issues of economic nature, skilled workforce and a poor image overseas. SC Matuas are a vibrant work force who can come and add value to a $ 3 trillion plus economy, struggling as they are to break free from the shackles of poverty. This is the main reasons why Bangladesh would like to keep the SC Matuas back.

 

However, the lessons of time have been learnt and CAA implementation has been welcomed by the Matua community in Bengal.

To read all articles by author 

These tables are from an earlier article written by Sanjeev Nayyar – Editor 

 

Table of Population Growth in West Bengal 4

Trend of Hindu Muslim population percentages in West Bengal. 

 

Table 1West Bengal % of population Indian Religions vs Muslims 

 

1971

1981

1991

2001

2011

Indian Religions

78.98

77.90

75.8

74.11

70.54

Muslims

20.45

21.5

23.61

25.25

27.01

 

We can see that the percentage of Muslims in West Bengal has steadily grown from 20.4% in 1971 to 27.01%. Table 5 has community-wise growth rates.

Table 2 - Community wise Growth rate in West Bengal %

 

Indian Religions

Muslims

State Growth in Population

National Growth

1951-1961

32

36.5

32.8

21.6

1961-1971

26.1

29.8

26.9

24.7

1971-1981

21.5

29.5

23.2

24.6

1981-1991

21.4

36.9

24.7

23.8

1991-2001

15.1

25.9

24.7

21.5

2001-2011

8.3

21.8

13.8

17.7

 

Also read

1. The reason behind excluding Sri Lankan Tamils from CAA

2. Issues in legal challenge to CAA law

3. India is the only home of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs

4. Bangladeshi Infiltration into India

5. Righting the wrong of decades CAA rules

6. CAA redeems historical promises

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