History bears testimony to the fact that persecution is a grotesque phenomenon which, more often than not, leads to exodus of people at the receiving end to safer zones. Quite often the victims of persecution flee in tens of thousands, nay, in lakhs to some neighbouring country(ies).
A striking example of persecution in the present day world is that of the brutality and killings let loose on Rohingiya Muslims by the powers that be in Myanmar, leading to lakhs fleeing to Bangladesh to escape the Myanmarese Army’s wrath in the Rakhine region.
However, occasional communal violence or clashes between communities of different religious faiths, with minorities at the receiving end; in any country is not persecution. Such clashes take place in various parts of the world at different times and, historically speaking, will continue to be so.
The reason is simple. The human race is fragmented by diverse religions, cults, languages, cultures and the like. History is overloaded with testimonies that clearly indicate total oneness of mankind was, is and will always be a mirage.
Over the last few years, the powers that be at the Centre headed by the BJP have been going hammer and tongs over the issue of persecution of Hindus in several countries with the finger directly pointed at Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Persecution in the real sense has international recognition attached to it as in the case of the Rohingia Muslims and cannot be established by blowing one’s own trumpet. In the absence of global recognition, the exact nature of any projection of persecution hovers over the realm of uncertainty and suspicion.
In the fitness of things and in the light of international propriety, the issue of persecution of Hindus in the neighbouring countries, primarily in Bangladesh, as alleged by the saffron brigade should have been taken up by New Delhi with the Governments of those countries where persecution is allegedly taking place as well as with international agencies like the UNO and other global bodies.
It is not quite understood if minor or major clashes between majority religious community and minority religious community (the Hindus in the instant case) are being projected by the BJP dispensation as persecution.
If that be the yardstick of the BJP leadership in the matter of persecution, one would only arrive at the conclusion that there is persecution in every corner of the globe, including India. Fortunately for mankind, that is not to be.
In the latest instance, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj defended the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on the ground that there is persecution of minorities (read as Hindus) in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the case of Afghanistan, the Minister may be told that with the Taliban and other Islamist terror mongers on the prowl since decades, people of all religions have fallen prey to terror let loose by those forces.
While people of no religious faith could escape the brutality of the Afghan terror mongers, numerically speaking, vast majority of the victims of Afghan terror strikes are Muslims, that include civilians a well as member of Government armed forces confronting the terrorist groups. The matter needs to be considered as a whole and not in terms of a few members of one religious faith or another.
So far as Pakistan is concerned, sporadic attacks on religious minorities and minority religious institutions do hit the media headlines at times. As per a media report, “The issue of the continued poor condition and mistreatment of minority communities in Pakistan has been highlighted by India at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Sushma Swaraj stated in the Parliament.
As stated above, the Minister may be told that mere “poor condition and mistreatment” is not persecution. It must be backed up by severe brutality at the ground level, leading to exodus of tens and thousands as in the case of the Rohingia Muslims. Persecution must also have the recognition of world bodies like the UNO. Same is the case with Bangladesh. A communal clash or desecration of the place of worship of the religious minorities is not persecution.
The Government may be told that umpteen number of communal clashes have taken place in India over the decades with the religious minorities at the receiving end. Muslims in thousand were killed in the virtually non-ending riots in Gujarat when Narendra Modi himself was the Chief Minister of that state. Near at home, countless number of Muslims were killed in the infamous Nellie massacre in 1980. Fortunately, and rightly so, nobody has termed these killings as persecution. These killings had their own dynamics – their beginning and end.
Likewise, desecration of a place of worship by itself is not persecution. The Babri Masjid has been pulled down; churches too have met with the same fate elsewhere in India. But no member of the religious minority communities has raised the bogey of persecution in such instances. Interestingly, before the ISIS were compelled to flee from Musul in Iraq in the face of Iraqi Army offensive backed by aerial bombing by the allied powers, the savage Jehadis pulled down the 800-year old Al-Nuri Mosque. Will Susham Swaraj enlighten us as to what term may be used in the instant case?
However, the BJP’s trumpet on persecution of Hindus in neighbouring countries is a huge one – and naturally so as it blows from the seat of power. Based on its own allegation of persecution, the BJP-led Government at the Centre has brought in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on the ground that the allegedly persecuted Hindus in the neighbouring countries should be given shelter in India. And the External Affairs minister has unambiguously and officially extended the Government’s support to the same.
Politically speaking, influx of crores of Hindu foreigners, mainly Bangladeshis, would amount to burgeoning of the Hindu vote bank of the BJP by crores for ever.
Significantly, in the matter of Bangladesh, whether the issue of persecution is real, imaginary or political can be gauged from the pomp and gaiety with which Durga Puja is celebrated in Dhaka and other parts of that country. Will Sushma Swaraj undertake a visit to Bangladesh to witness the pomp and gaiety with which Durga Puja is celebrated in the neighbouring country?
Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected]