Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016: Palestinian syndrome should not ring

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6 min read

History has always proved to be a mighty reservoir of knowledge and wisdom for mankind. While the dynamics of history are at work without even a pause, time creeps at its petty pace into years, decades and centuries.

The homeless Jews who were subjected to barbaric torture and sufferings by the Nazi regime during the World War II, finally found their ‘promised land’ with the creation of the Jewish state of Israel by the international community in the later forties of the 20th century.

Historically speaking, a homeland for the Jews was an absolute necessity particularly after Hitler let loose a reign of terror against them, not only in Germany but across several European countries.

With their open and mass killings of the Jews in the most brutal manner, to the point of deriving sadistic pleasure, the Nazi regime grossly polluted the pages of history – a bad, mad and sad chapter – leading to the international community blessing the Jews with a homeland.

Unfortunately, the goodwill of the international community headed by the UNO turned out to be a curse for the Palestinians.

While the Jews got a new homeland christened as Israel (the ancient name), the Palestinians were driven out of the same homeland that had gone by the name of Palestine.

The Palestinians turned into homeless refugees seeking shelter in neighbouring countries like Lebanon.

Ironically, even today, an overwhelming majority of the Palestinians are without a homeland, except for a tiny strip in the Ramalla region (10 km north of Jerusalem) where they have a government of sort sans any military power.

Further, a microscopic minority of Palestenians who stayed back in  their one-time homeland (now Israel), are forced to face harsh ruling, gross human rights violations and more often than not gruesome third degree measures perpetrated by the Israeli authorities.

Further, millions of Palestinians who are now homeless  refugees in several countries around Israel are subjected to routine bombardment by the Israeli Air Force even at the drop of a hat.

And a hat falls quite often.

Palestinian guerillas belonging to several outfits have not given up their decades-old struggle for a homeland.

The result being free flow of blood, principally Palestinian, turning the region red.

While the world community and the UNO rendered all possible help in the repatriation and settlement of the Jews from several countries in their new homeland, as of now the BJP dispensation at the Centre is seemingly making an all out effort to write a new chapter on history, but from the opposite end.

In this regard, the saffron regime has already initiated the first move to bring in crores of foreigners, mainly Hindus, from several countries with Bangladesh in the top slot and have them settled in India and in due course grant citizenship.

File photo of Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and BJP MP from Merut Rajendra Agrawal . UB Photos

For the purpose it has already brought in the highly controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

While the overwhelming majority of the foreign nationals are expected to be Bangladeshi Hindus, Assam, which is already plagued with the problem of influx of foreign nationals since decades without a solution in sight, except for false promises made by virtually all political parties, has every reason to fear that crores of Bangladeshi Hindus may be pushed into Assam.

Again, one should not lose sight of the historical reality that Assam is the only state in India that launched a six-year long agitation demanding expulsion of foreigners from the State.

While the six-year long movement culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord 33 years ago, all the major clauses of the Accord continue to be paper tigers sans teeth and claws, courtesy Delhi and Dispur.

Harping on the U-turns made by the powers that be, it may be recalled that in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as well as during the 2016 Assam Assembly polls, the BJP leadership announced in unambiguous terms that all foreigners would be deported from the State.

However, as of now, the State is witness to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which has the obnoxious stigma of religion attached to it – an open violation of the secular polity of the nation enunciated by the Constitution of India.

No doubt that the Bill has the potential to fling open the gates for the entry of foreigners, mainly Bangladeshi Hindus, in hordes into Assam.

Whereas the State being rocked by loud, vehement and continuous opposition to the Bill has become a routine feature, the highly discriminatory role played by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Bill only adds to the suspicion as to what ulterior motive against the people of Assam, mainly of the Brahmaputra Valley, could be up the sleeves of the BJP dispensation in Delhi.

The JPC conducted hearing for two days for the three districts of the Barak Valley, while the 30 districts of the Brahmaputra Valley were allotted hearing for one day only.

Compared to the Barak Valley, mathematically speaking, the 30 districts of the Brahmaputra Valley deserved 20 days of hearing.

While Chief Minister Sarbananda Subowal is silent on the JPC farce, his obscure statement on the Bill that no harm would be done to the people of Assam simply harps on the fringe of redundancy.

Whereas dark clouds seemingly gather on the horizon, the people of Assam, mainly of the Brahmaputra Valley, as well as some north-eastern states are highly apprehensive that guided by forces of Hindutva, the BJP leadership may be committed to dump crores of Bangladeshi Hindus in the region to consolidate its Hindu vote bank for all times.

File photo of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal speaking at a programme. UB photos

The indigenous people are awe-struck that they may not only be reduced to a microscopic minority with demography acquiring a new face, but may have to lose their hearths and homes while their rich culture and language suffer a permanent eclipse.

One shudders the thought if the creation of a new set of ‘Palestinians’ in Assam and the Northeast could be round the corner.

As per the Constitution, the Centre is duty bound to ensure, in deeds not words, that this fear does not surface.

And deed implies scrapping of the controversial Bill.

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at  

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