Congress must fulfil its promises made to the Hindu refugees: An open letter from Bishu Duttachoudhury
A civilized nation cannot break its own commitment. It should be fulfilled as early as possible and at any cost. What promise has been done to the religious minority communities of Pakistan during partition, it is our national commitment. Congress – the century-old party – cannot escape from its responsibility now.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, of course, supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, has to establish himself as the true legacy holder of that party. I wish to refer here some points which would make us better understand how the Congress party has always been sympathetic towards the religious minority communities of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Rahul Gandhi knows very well that partition is done against the wishes of the Hindu community. Were the forefathers of the Hindu community supporters of partition? Had they not taken part in the freedom struggle? Had they too not raised the nationalist phrase ‘Vande Mataram’? What was their fault?
Given below are a few points that need to be understood:
(1) Resolution of Congress
The Congress Working Committee adopted the following resolution on November 25, 1947:
“The Congress is bound to afford full protection to all those non-Muslims from Pakistan who have crossed the border and come over to India or may do so to save their life and honour.”
(Source: India’s Struggle for Freedom: Select Documents and Sources by Jagdish Saran Sharma – Volume 3 page 835)
We can say here that the said resolution of Congress does not violate the aims and objectives of the citizenship amendment bill. Is there any difference in the inner meanings between the resolution and the bill? Can the Congress deny this fact?
(2) Promises done by Gandhi, Nehru, Prasad and Patel
Mahatma Gandhi openly declared in a prayer meeting on September 26, 1947 —‘‘The Hindus and the Sikhs staying in Pakistan, can come to India by all means, if, they do not wish to continue there. In that case, it is the first duty of the Indian government to give them jobs and make their lives comfortable’’.
(Source: Selected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume Ninety-six: (Jul 7, 1947 – Sep 26, 1947))
The first Prime Minister of independent India – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru – during the declaration of Independence stated that— ‘‘we also think of our brothers and sisters cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike’’.
(Source: Independence and After)
The then President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad declared in the oath taking ceremony that—‘‘we are anxious to rehabilitate displaced persons who have suffered and still suffering great hardships and privations’’.
(Source: Presidents Speak to the Nation: Republic Day Speeches (1950-2000))
Home Minister and Iron man Sardar Ballavbhai Patel declared on January 15, 1950 in Kolkata —‘‘Those who are our flesh and blood, who fought by our side in the freedom struggle cannot suddenly become foreigners to us because they are on the other side of a line. There are people in South Africa, people of Indian origin but with African citizenship, whom we still try to help. If they have a claim on us, surely those in that part of Bengal too have a claim’’.
(Source: Selected Speeches and Writings of Vallabhbhai Patel)
To fulfill the promises made by the national leaders during Independence, the said bill of course, is an opportunity for Congress. The said bill is in accordance with the promises and if it opposes this bill, does it have the moral right to be called the legacy holders of our great national leaders?
(3) Constituent Assembly Debates on Citizenship on 11th -12th August 1949
Dr. P.S. Deshmukh: I want to make a provision that every person who is a Hindu or a Sikh and is not a citizen of any other State shall be entitled to be a citizen of India. We have seen the formation and establishment of Pakistan. Why was it established? It was established because the Muslims claimed that they must have a home of their own and a country of their own. Here we are an entire nation with a history of thousands of years and we are going to discard it, in spite of the fact that neither the Hindu nor the Sikh has any other place in the wide world to go to. By the mere fact that he is a Hindu or a Sikh, he should get Indian citizenship because it is this one circumstance that makes him disliked by others. But we are a secular State and do not want to recognise the fact that every Hindu or Sikh in any part of the world should have a home of his own. If the Muslims want an exclusive place for themselves called Pakistan, why should not Hindus and Sikhs have India as their home? We are not debarring others from getting citizenship here. We merely say that we have no other country to look to for acquiring citizenship rights and therefore we the Hindus and the Sikhs, so long as we follow the respective religions, should have the right of citizenship in India and should be entitled to retain such citizenship so long as we acquire no other. I do not thing this claim is in any way non-secular or sectarian or communal. If anybody says so, he is, to say the least, mistaken. I think my description (amendment) covers every possible case. The only thing we are agitated about is that our people, thinking that Pakistan would be a happy country, went there and came back. Why should we recognise them by means of this or that provision in the Constitution? Nothing of that sort is necessary. So long as they are residing in India when the Constitution was promulgated and are born of Indian parents, they should be entitled to citizenship rights without any fresh registration or evidence. That is what is contemplated in my definition.
Prof. Shibban Lal Saksena: Dr. Deshmukh’s amendment is quite correct, for the Hindus and Sikhs have no other home but India and I do not see how we can include everyone in this category unless we say it bluntly in this form. We should not be ashamed in saying that every person who is a Hindu or a Sikh by religion and is not a citizen of another State shall be entitled to citizenship of India. That will cover every class whom we want to cover and will be comprehensive. The phrase ‘secular’ should not frighten us in admitting a fact and reality must be faced. I, therefore, think that Dr. Deshmukh has given a very good suggestion.
Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava: I am desirous that not a single person who has come from Pakistan as a refugee should have any trouble in being a citizen of India. I am anxious that no obstacle should be placed in the way of those refugees who have come from Pakistan on account of disturbances and who have left their hearths and homes and come to this country. My second desire is that those who were desirous to become the citizens of Pakistan on the 15th August 1947 or who left this country to become citizens of Pakistan with open eyes and with the song on their lips “Hanske liya Pakistan, Ladke lenge Hindustan” should not be made the citizens of India. Those persons have now forfeited their right to become citizens of this country. Sir, I submit that so far as these refugees are concerned they were the nationals of India. By the mere fact of partition they have not ceased to be citizens of India, provided they have come here and want to settle permanently in this country. They have every right to citizenship and any obstacle in their way I regard as unjustifiable and wrong.
R. K. Sidhwa: Those honourable members who have referred to this proviso are also justified in their complaint; I do not want to belittle their arguments. I want to state that this proviso is necessary. It is not a question of the Muslims; there are hundreds of thousands of Parsis and Christians today in Pakistan who may like to come back – why should you close the door against them? They were born in India; they have everything to do with India; for certain reasons they are there. If at any time they want to come, this proviso gives them this right. I do want that right to be taken away.
Rohini Kumar Chauduri (Assam: General): I want citizenship rights for those persons (I am particularly concerned with Assam) who had come from East Bengal because they found things impossible for them there. It may be argued in a narrow way that every one who has come from East Bengal was not really actuated by fear or disturbance or actually living in a place where disturbance had taken place. Can anyone imagine for a moment that there is no fear of disturbance in the winds of these East Bengal people who had come over to West Bengal or Assam? Was there any sense of security in their minds? Has that sense of security, now after a period of two years, been enhanced by the fact that Pakistan has been converted into a theocratic state? I should say in answer to the criticism of Pandit Kunzru, that you need not insist in. such cases that the man should be actuated by fear of disturbance or that disturbance should have taken place. The fear is latent in the mind of everybody. The moment any Hindu or a person of any minority community raises a protest against any action which is taken there, disturbances would immediately follow. Is there any doubt about that?
I want citizenship rights to this class of people, who have originally belonged to Sylhet in the province of Assam, who, long before the partition, have come to the Assam Valley as a citizen of that province and are staying in the present province of Assam. I ask, have they got citizenship or not? These people belonged to the, province of Assam, Sylhet. They had come to Assam on some business or other; they had come as government servants or as employees of businessmen. They had not migrated; no question of migration arose at that time.
They had come on business; they are now in Assam; they want to be in Assam. Have they got citizenship rights or not? I want citizenship rights for them.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I want citizenship-rights for those people of East Bengal who had gone over to West Bengal or Assam out of fear of disturbance in the future or from a sense of insecurity and also for those people who have come over from Sylhet, who at the time of coming had no fear of disturbance or anything of that kind, but who, on account of fear of disturbances now have decided to live here.
At the same time, I also have the temerity, to say in this House that I would exclude those persons who came only three years ago, who set up the civil disobedience movement forcibly occupied land which was not meant for them, and forced the benevolent and benign Government to have recourse to the military to keep peace in the province I should be the last person to say, and I hope everyone has Honestly acknowledged that, that class of persons should be any mean be granted citizenship rights in the province. I also make it quite plain that I desire to exclude those persons who surreptitiously introduced themselves into my province and who now having mixed themselves with their own brethren, now desire to have citizenship rights, not out of any sense of insecurity on their part, in their own provinces but with a desire to exploit more from that province of Assam. I desire to exclude these people because they had not, long ago set up the struggle for Pakistan, they had not long before taken an active Dart in compelling the politicians of India to agree for partition; they have their own property and are living peacefully on their own property; not only that, they have brought about such a state of things that they have been able to purchase property for mere nothing, property which belongs to the minority who had come out of fear. Sir, I have said things quite frankly, and I know some honourable members will be dissatisfied with me. But I have no doubt at all in my mind that the people of all communities in my province, including Muslims who belong to Assam, will absolutely agree with me. Muslims who have made Assam their home will agree with me. But people who have newly come there, expecting to be in a position to create a barrier to the proper and smooth administration of that province, I know, will resent the remarks which I have made. I quite see that I am subjected to a lot of misunderstanding. Some people have interpreted the amendment which I have tabled as an amendment which aims against the entry of Bengali Hindus into Assam. That is the interpretation which some friends of mine have unfortunately put on the amendment. I may also remind you that in my own province a number of no-confidence resolutions have been passed against me, because as the adviser of the refugees I had advocated the cause of East Bengal Hindu refugees. And it will be of interest to note that most of these people who have no-confidence in me belong to ladies’ associations. Of course my honourable Friend Dr. Ambedkar will say that I should not worry, because women will always be woman: and I also console myself with that thought. I have never been a persona grata with the women of this country or with the women of any country; and at this age I can very easily endure the ordeal of being not a persona grata with the ladies section of the people of this country. But leaving aside the ladies organisations, I only wish that the reasonable men should consider this question in proper perspective. That is my purpose. I will be satisfied if reasonable men support me. If they support Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava, not only will the welfare of my province be safeguarded, not only will the interest of East Bengal refugees be safeguarded but also ultimately it will be to the general welfare of India. You will have a province which will be absolutely loyal, which will be absolutely faithful to the government of the Province and which will be unanimously faithful to the Dominion of India. If you do not accept Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava’s amendment, and if you do not bring in any other amendment to the same effect, you will expose your frontier, you will expose that province and that province will become a source of great danger to you. Already I have been to Cachar and I have seen in that district, from which crossing the Barak river you come into India, there is trouble; and if this amendment of Dr. Ambedkar is accepted, this district of Cachar will be entirely one district of Pakistan, and who will be responsible for giving one district which should have been kept in our province and which was retained after a good deal of fight but which will be sent to Pakistan? It will be this amendment moved by Dr. Ambedkar.
Sardar Bhopinder Singh Man: I was saying that the Hindu and Sikh refugees view-point has been met to some extent, but not wholly. I do not understand why the July 19, 1948 has been prescribed for the purpose of citizenship. These unfortunate refugees could not have foreseen this date; otherwise they would have invited Pakistan knife earlier so that they might have come here earlier and acquired citizenship rights. It will be very cruel to shut our borders to those who are victimised after the July 19, 1948. They are as much sons of the soil as anyone else. This political mishap was not of their own seeking and now it will be very cruel to place these political impediments in their way and debar them from coming over to Bharat Mata. Our demand is that any person, who because of communal riots in Pakistan has come over to India and stays here at the commencement of this Constitution, should automatically be considered as a citizen of India and should on no account be made to go to a registering authority and plead before him and establish a qualification of six months domicile to claim rights of citizenship. There may be victims of communal frenzy in our neighbouring State hereafter; it is not only a possibility but a great probability in the present circumstances. Any failure of the evacuee property talks may lead to a flare-up against Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, and we must have a clause that these people will in no case be debarred from coming over and becoming citizens of this Union.
The members of the constituent assembly felt the pain of partition-victims. No doubt is in it. The level of the pain is same as earlier. Is not it?
(4) Letter to Gopinath Bordoloi by Nehru
To Gopinath Bardoloi
May 18, 1949
My dear Bordoloi,
I thank you for your letter of the 7th May. I see you are here in Delhi and I was hoping to have a talk with you. Meanwhile, I am replying to some matters referred to in your letter.
You mention that Pakistan is carrying on espionage in Assam. To some extent, I suppose, this is being done by Pakistan all over India and it is inevitable. But of course, so far as we are concerned, we must try to stop it or find out what they are doing. We do not object normally to particular persons visiting India from Pakistan. But if high officials make a point of coming to India and staying here for a long time, the matter might well be enquired into.
I am surprised to learn that you feel yourself helpless in dealing with the influx of Muslims into Assam. As you know, we have a permit system as between Western Pakistan and India. I do not think there is a permit system in regard to Eastern Bengal and Western Bengal and possibly no such system exists in regard to Assam either. I think you should discuss this matter with Mr. Gopalswami Ayyangar. This really has nothing to do with the type of permit system that we have in the west. In a sense you have to face a somewhat different problem and surely we ought to be able to devise ways and means to deal with it.
About the influx of Hindus from East Bengal, this is a different matter entirely. I am told that your government or some of your Ministers have openly stated that they prefer Muslims of East Bengal to Hindus from East Bengal. While I, for one, always like any indication of a lack of communal feeling in dealing with public matters, I must confess that this strong objection to Hindu refugees coming from East Bengal is a little difficult for me to understand. I am afraid Assam is getting a bad name for its narrow-minded policy.
You say there is no further land available in Assam. This is a question of fact which can easily be determined. It is patent, however, that if land is not available in Assam, it is still less available in the rest of India which is very heavily populated, barring the deserts and the mountains. What then are we to do with the millions of refugees we have to deal with? Many of them, of course, will be accommodated in East Punjab or roundabout from where Muslims have gone, but we have refugees from Sind, from the North West Frontier Province, from Baluchistan, from East Bengal etc. Where are these people to go to if each province adopts the attitude that Assam apparently has done? Are we just to push them out of India or to allow them to starve and die out? Obviously not. Therefore, we have to absorb them and make provision for them so that they might be good citizens. In doing this, all provinces have to help and cooperate and it will do no good to a province to refuse cooperation in this national work.
The refugee problem is one of the two or three problems to which we give first priority in India at present. This applies to the utilisation of our financial resources also. Our development schemes are thought of in terms, to some extent, of refugees. If Assam adopts an attitude of incapacity to help in solving the refugee problem, then the claims of Assam for financial help obviously suffer. You say that you have already received two and half lakh Hindu refugees from East Bengal. That may be so, although there are no precise records. But evidently the Assam Government has done nothing for them and they have shifted for themselves.
I think it is important that your Government should look at this question from the larger viewpoint. This is not only essential for lndia but, if I may say so, for Assam also. Of all the provinces of India Assam is the least heavily populated and there is going to be continuous pressure upon it from all sides including China. No laws will be able to prevent this pressure and occasional influxes. We can deal with this methodically by selecting our people or be swept away by it willy-nilly.
You talk of the communist menace etc. That is no doubt a separate problem. But it is also related to the problem I have touched upon above.
I understand that it has now been decided to have a census of displaced persons taken. There should also be a welfare committee in each district and that deputy commissioners should give rehabilitation facilities to artisans and destitute persons. I am glad this is going to be done and the sooner it is done the better. But the main thing is that this problem has to be looked upon from a different aspect than it has been thus far in Assam. I understand that Medhi, your Finance Minister, is a strong opponent of any further refugees coming to Assam. I think he is wrong in this. I am sending a copy of this letter to him also so that he may know my views on the subject.
(From Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru)
This letter clearly indicates that the mindset of a section of Congress leaders still has not changed. The step that had been taken by Nehru is undoubtedly worthy. Nation wants to see such bold steps being taken by the current Congress President.
5) Circular of Lalbahadur Shastri – Government
Memo No. 4-366-63-1C
The Chief Secretary,
Assam, West Bengal ,Tripura
Sri Fateh Singh
Jt Secretary. Ministry of Home Affairs
Sub: Conferment of Indian citizenship on migrants from East Pakistan—Policy and Procedure in regards to.
As the state government is aware about the question of registration as Indian citizens of members of the minority communities who have recently migrated from East Pakistan has been under consideration. The matter has been examined in the light of the views expressed by the State Governments. It has been decided that such of the migrants (whether they have come with or without migration certificates or other travel documents) as have severed their ties and connections with Pakistan and have settled in service, trade or profession in India, may be registered as Indian citizens under Sec. 5(i) (a) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, provided they fulfill the conditions laid down in rule 9 of the Citizenship Rules, 1956. It is requested that necessary instruction may be issued to the registering authorities concerned and number of migrants registered during each month be intimated to this ministry by the 15th of the succeeding month.
Policy Instruction No. 41366/63-IC/Govt. of India/Ministry of Home Affairs dated 16.6.65
(Source: Documents on North-East India: Assam (1958 to modern times edited by Suresh K. Sharma))
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is in the tone of the said Shastri-Circular. How can anyone describe the bill as the anti-principle of Congress?
(6) Statement of Indira Gandhi Government
The following Press Communiqué was issued by the Assam State Government on 30.3.1980: “So far as the members of the minority community of erstwhile East Pakistan who have migrated into Assam before 1971, there are already policy decisions laid down right up to 1969 to register them as Indian citizens provided they fulfill the conditions laid down in Rule 9 of the Citizenship rules. These refugees have been accepted for all practical purposes as citizens; not only have many of them been enrolled as voters but also many have been rehabilitated by the Government itself in agriculture, trade, industries etc. They are therefore foreign nationals only in the purely technical sense that they have not applied for and secured registration as citizens of India. Obviously, the policy to register them as citizens having been laid down more than a decade ago, there can be no genuine grievances if this situation is now rectified in a manner which will cause the least amount of hardship to them “.
(Source: You Do Not Belong Here: Partition Diaspora in the Brahmaputra Valley by Moushumi Dutta Pathak)
Here it clearly mentions “minority communities”. We can easily say that the present Citizenship Bill fully endorses the press statement. No one can oppose it. When the said press statement was issued, Assam was under President’s rule. At that time, Mrs Indira Gandhi was in power.
(7) Speech of Manmohan Singh in Rajya Sabha on December 18, 2003
Dr. Manmohan Singh, the leader of the opposition, member from Assam, told, ‘‘While I am on this subject, Madam, I would like to point out this thing with regard to the treatment of refugees after the partition of our country, the minorities in countries like Bangladesh have faced persecution, and it is our moral obligation, that, if circumstances force people, these unfortunate people, to seek refuge in our country, approach to grating citizenship to these unfortunate persons should be more liberal. I sincerely hope that the Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister bears this in mind in charting out the future course of action with regard to the Citizenship Act.’’
During his 10 years- tenure as PM, Mr Singh never uttered a single word on the said issue. Now, the time has come to solve the problems of Hindu refugees. Even when under Citizenship Rules, 1956, Rule 8A was inserted in 2004, Congress never questioned the move. Here the rule 8A is “Authority to register as Citizens in States of Gujarat and Rajasthan.-
(1) In the case of registration of citizens in the State of Gujarat, –
(a) In relation to the district of Kutch, Patan, Banaskantha and Ahmedabad, –
(i) in respect of Pakistan nationals of minority Hindu community displaced consequent to the wars between India and Pakistan in the years 1965 and 1971, the dependants of such persons married to Indian Citizens or persons of Indian origin, the authority to register a person as a citizen of India under Clauses (a), (c), (d) and (e) of sub- section (1) of Section 5 of the Act shall be the concerned Collectors of the districts;
(ii) in respect of minority Hindus with Pakistan citizenship who have migrated to India more than five years back with the intention of permanently settling down in India and have applied for Indian citizenship, the authority to register a person as a citizen of India under Clauses (a), (c), (d) and (e) of sub-0section (1) of section 5 of the Act shall be the concerned Collector of the district where the applicant is ordinarily resident;
(b) in relation to the districts not covered under sub-clause (i) of clause (a), the authority to register a person as a citizen of India under clauses (a) (c), (d) and (e) of sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Act shall be the Secretary, Home Department of the State of Gujarat.
(2) In the case of registration of citizens in the State of Rajasthan, –
(i) in relation to the district of Badmar and Jaisalmer, in respect of Pakistan nationals of minority Hindu community displaced consequent to the wars between India and Pakistan in the years 1965 and 1971, the dependants of such persons married to Indian Citizens or persons of Indian origin, the authority to register a person as a citizen of India under clauses (a), (c), (d) and (e) of sub- section (1) of section 5 of the Act shall be the concerned Collector of the district;
(ii) in respect of minority Hindus with Pakistan citizenship who have migrated to India more than five years back with the intention of permanently settling down in India and have applied for Indian citizenship, the authority to register a person as a citizen of India under clauses (a), (c), (d) and (e) of sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Acts hall be the concerned Collector of the district where the applicant is normally resident.”
Clearly, the said rule was made in favor of the Hindu refugees so why is the Congress raising an objection against the Citizenship Bill?
(8) LTV – procedure of Manmohan Singh Government
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Home Affairs
10-June-2010 16:42 IST
Norms Relaxed for Indian Citizenship to Certain Categories of Pak Nationals Staying in India
MHA has asked the State Governments/UT Administration to consider cases for extension of the Long-term Visa (LTV) of certain categories of Pakistani nationals without insisting of validity of passports as per the provisions of the Gazette notification issued on May, 15, 2010 as such Pakistani nationals have come to India permanently with the intention to attain Indian citizenship. However, only such Pakistani nationals are eligible to be considered for grant/extension of LTV who have come to India on or before December 31, 2009.
The matter was examined in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Law and it has been decided to grant exemption to such Pak nationals from the provisions of Rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. Accordingly, an order to this effect has been notified on May 15, 2010.
The following categories of Pakistani nationals are covered to enable them to qualify for extension of Visa:
(a) Member of minority communities in Pakistan (Hindus & Sikhs)
(b) Pakistani women married to Indian nationals and staying in India.
(c) Indian women married to Pakistani nationals and returning due to widowhood/divorce and having no male member to support them in Pakistan and
(d) Cases involving extreme compassion.
In addition to above mentioned four categories of Pakistani nationals, grant of LTV is also being considered in the case of male Muslim community members being originally Indian citizen who went to Pakistan after partition leaving behind family in India and returned back to India on a valid passport issued by the Government of Pakistan and settled in the State of Kerala so that they can acquire Indian Citizenship.
Such Pak nationals were unable to extend the validity period of their passports on account of reasons such as
(i) Pakistan High Commission’s refusal to extend the validity of passport in the absence of Computerized National Identity Card. Pakistan is issuing Computerized National identity Cards to their nationals and extends validity of Passports in respect of only those Pak nationals who possess the National Identity Card.
(ii) Poor economic conditions of the Pakistani nationals.
The Ministry of Home Affairs have been receiving a large number of references from such Pak nationals staying in various states where their passports had expired and they were not able to renew the same. In the absence of valid passport/visa, they are not considered suitable for Indian citizenship. (Source: http://pib.nic.in/
The then Union Government had relaxed the long term visa process in favor of the Hindu-Sikh of Pakistan. This has been done according to the principle of Congress.
(9) Promises of Congress during the assembly election 2011 in Assam
Those persons who were Indian citizens at the time of partition and were compelled to leave their country due to persecution, atrocities and insecurity of life and property, deserve humanitarian consideration.
These lines are from the Congress Manifesto which was released in during the Assam Election 2011. How does the Congress betray the minority communities of Pakistan and Bangladesh who took shelter in India to save their lives?
(10) Cabinet decision of Tarun Gogoi Government
Secret extract from minutes of the cabinet meeting held on 16-07-2014 at 12.00 noon in the cabinet room of chief minister’s office at Dispur, Guwahati
Additional Item No 1
File No PLB 298/2012
Political (B) Department
Subject: Granting of asylum/citizenship to those persons who have had to flee Bangladesh in the fact of religious persecution of discrimination.
The Cabinet noted that the Hon’ble Chief Minister , Assam had submitted a Memorandum on April 20, 2012 to the then Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh where it was submitted that Indian citizens at the time of partition, who were compelled to leave the partitioned country due to religious persecution, atrocities and discrimination should deserve humanitarian consideration. Under the existing system and laws, now such persons are made liable to face prosecution, expulsion and deportation. Further, the Cabinet was apprised that as per direction of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India had been requested vide Letter No PLB. 296/2012/134, dated 12th May, 2014, to frame a Policy of granting asylum to those persons who were originally subjects of British India at the time partition and who have had to face religious persecution and discrimination later compelling them to come to India for shelter.
The Cabinet, after deliberation noted the position.
The then Tarun Gogoi Government took a decision in favor of the refugees in the cabinet meeting. It is very strange to see that one of the most senior leaders of our country like Gogoi is speaking in a totally different tone now. Gogoi has demanded referendum on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Hindu reported on May 9, 2018 under the title “In Assam, Congress leaders seek referendum on Citizenship Bill”.
It said: “We want a referendum on the issue to make things clear,” former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on Wednesday.
(11) Affidavit of Tarun Gogoi Govt in the Gauhati High Court
The deponent begs to state that in the matter raised by the petitioner, the Central Government is the sole authority to grant citizenship under Citizenship Act. However, considering the issues raised by the petitioner, the State government has requested the Government of India to frame a policy for granting asylum to those persons, originally subjects of British India at the time of partition who have had to face religious persecution or discrimination later and as a result compelled to come to India for shelter.
These lines are from the said affidavit, submitted by the then Assam Congress government headed by Tarun Gogoi in Gopi Ghosh case (70 / 2012) in favor of refugees on the July 1, 2014.
(12) Assam Congress adopted resolution in favor of refugees
The Telegraph dated March 7, 2011 published a news item under the caption “Different strokes on Hindu migrants”.
The Telegraph wrote in this news item: While AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh, has gone by the 1971 cut-off date for identification and deportation of foreigners, chief minister Tarun Gogoi favours a ‘humanitarian’ approach. Gogoi said Bengali Hindus were a persecuted lot in Bangladesh and, hence, deserved refugee status if they came to India, a line espoused by the BJP. Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita, defending both Singh and Gogoi, today said the party would toe the central government’s line. Singh made the observation while addressing party workers in Silchar on February 17, leaving Bengali organisations infuriated. Gogoi tried to douse the fire sparked by Singh ahead of the Assembly polls with his humanitarian touch on February 28. Kalita went all out to put the lid on the controversy sparked by Singh but it left no one wiser. Asked about the party’s stand on the issue, he said, “Both our stands are correct. While Digvijayji has stated the legal position, our chief minister had gone by the humanitarian aspect. I don’t think there is a dispute over the two positions.”
The Economic Times dated Jun 2, 2015 reported:
“Assam: Congress seeks citizenship for Hindu Bengalis, Buddhists who migrated from Bangladesh”
At an executive meeting of Assam Pradesh Congress committee (APCC) held recently, APCC president Anjan Dutta said, “We will take up the unresolved issue of citizenship for the Bengali Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of other minority communities who came to Assam after being subjected to inhuman torture post the partition of India.” Dutta added, “These people were citizens of undivided India and they were forced to flee their own homes for saving their lives after being subjected to atrocities on the grounds of religion. The APCC urges the Centre to grant citizenship to all such people, taking into consideration historical reality and the humanitarian aspect.”… Dutta told ET, “We are talking about all minorities subjected to atrocities, and not just Hindu Bengalis. We are not concerned about BJP’s stand. They are talking about it only now. We had taken a cabinet resolution on 2011 seeking refugee status for granting asylum to these people”. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on April 20, 2012, pleading that Indian citizens who had to flee due to discrimination and religious persecution at the time of partition, should not be treated as foreigners.
India Today dated July 17, 2014 reported:
“Gogoi to urge Modi for a policy on asylum to Hindu refugees from Bangladesh”
The Assam government has decided to urge the Narendra Modi-led Union government to frame a policy for granting asylum to persons who have taken refuge in India after fleeing their country on grounds of religious persecution and discrimination. The decision was taken on July 16 at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. The Cabinet’s decision has once again brought to the fore the controversial issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
The news agency Press Trust of India reported on September 10, 2015:
“Assam should have been consulted on minorities issue: Tarun Gogoi”
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the Centre should have consulted his government on the issue of regularising the entry and stay of persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh. “The decision is in line with the state government’s stand on the issue, but we should have been consulted before such an important decision was taken,” he said in a statement here. On September 7, the Centre decided to allow minority refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan to stay in India even after expiry of their visas on humanitarian grounds. The central government has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in respect of their entry and stay in India without proper documents or after the expiry of relevant documents, a statement issued by the Home Ministry said. According to Gogoi, it is an issue in which Assam’s interests were directly involved and the matter should have been discussed with the state government before taking the decision to allow the right to stay to those religious persecuted minority people who had entered the country before December 31, 2014.
“It is not something new. We have always asked the Centre to allow these persecuted people to stay in India on humanitarian grounds,” he said. The state government had submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister on April 20, 2012 demanding that those suffering persecution in these two countries be allowed to stay in India.
The Times of India reported on 15th August, 2015:
“India willing to give asylum to Hindus from Pak”
Punjab Congress has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking for government intervention to provide Hindus refuge from Pakistan.
So how does Congress oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016? Not just the Assam Pradesh Congress, but also the Punjab Congress adopted a resolution in favor of refugees. If Congress adopts the wrong path opposing the bill, then it will create a dangerous trend in our political system.