The Citizenship Bill is a forgotten reform. The year 1979 was January. Nearly 40,000 refugees fled Bangladesh on an island called Marichhajapi in the swampy Sundarbans delta of West Bengal. This group of predominantly Dalit Hindus was a small part of the Mahaplayan in which around one crore oppressed Hindus had migrated to India and settled in various places since the formation of Bangladesh. The Communists who advocated and strengthened their political ground in West Bengal, after coming to power, the attitude of the Left Government towards the same refugees shifted from neglect to cruelty. Refugees were prevented from coming to West Bengal. In the same sequence, there was a vicious cycle of exterminating the refugees settled in Marichajpi by citing the forest laws. On January 26, section 144 was imposed in Marichajhapi. Then the island was surrounded by a hundred motorboats. Supply of all items including medicines, food grains was stopped. Five days later, on 31 January 1979, police firing brutally massacred the refugees. As around 30,000 refugees were still residing in Marichajpi, a heavy police team arrived again in May to chase them away. This time the left cadre was also with the police. There was an orgy of violence for about three days. Deep Haldar has given a very painful account of this incident in his book ‘Blood Island’. The remaining refugees were forcibly loaded into trucks and sent to the Dudhkundi camp. Basudev Bhattacharya reached the assembly and Vijayghosha declared that ‘Marichhajapi has been freed from the refugees’. He later became the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Even after the devastation of Partition, the double whammy that has been inflicted on Hindus, Marichchapi is a hallmark of that. When Hindu-stricken Hindus came to secular India after saving Islamist fundamentalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, it would sometimes get neglected and sometimes despised. On the one hand the sword of murder, rape, kidnapping and forced conversions hanged, on the other hand it would have threatened the complicated legal process or detention in camps in India.
Significantly, the Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs who were persecuting did not demand partition. Partition was imposed on them. The genocide that has been going on in Pakistan since 1947 and then in Bangladesh after 1971 is a widespread anguish. India had left these oppressed groups as orphans by not providing any kind of legal aid. The Citizenship Bill is a late atonement of this mistake. Self-styled secular forces, which never tried to provide support to any group before today, raised questions on the eligibility of beneficiaries as soon as this bill came. The constitutionality of the bill is being questioned by citing Articles 14 and 15. In particular, an attempt is being made to cite two principles of Article 14, ‘Intelligent Differential’ and ‘Reasonable Naxus’, that this bill does not meet both the principles. In intelligent language, ‘intelligent differential’ means a distinction that explains the uniqueness of the cause. Similarly, ‘Reasonable Nexus’ means the rational basis for making legal provisions for the affected classes due to specific distinctions. The Citizenship Bill meets both these criteria. Due to this specific distinction, many provisions have been made in the law for Scheduled Castes, Tribes, Women and the economically backward.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill is a response to the humanitarian crisis arising from specific circumstances. If people affected by such a big catastrophe will not be considered as a rational basis for making laws under specific distinction, then who will be considered? That is why the bill only provides for citizenship for stricken minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. If the argument of those who are opposing the Bill by citing Article 14 will be accepted, then any person in the world will automatically be entitled to get Indian citizenship. Critics who make arbitrary interpretations of constitutional provisions are those who either consider India as an inn, not a sovereign, autonomous nation, or reject religious persecution of minorities by the majority community in these three countries.
Citizens born in undivided India, their married or minor children and the first generation, who have been living in India for one year, under the various sub-sections of Section-5 of the Citizenship Act, 1955, made at the time of Nehru, under the same conditions. Provision of Amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, 1986, 1992, 2003 and 2005 were introduced to prevent infiltration and help other refugees. As the problem remains, another amendment is justified.
Opponents confined to the insensitive literal interpretation of the constitution must also go to the preamble of the constitution before various paragraphs. The initial words of the Constitution, ‘India that is India ..’ recognize the Indian Republic as a nation-state. The nation-state is the concept in which the state inherits the archaic civilization and cultural identity and has the responsibility of maintaining the archaic identity over it. It is the moral and constitutional obligation of the Indian Union to provide relief to the oppressed Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians in the neighborhood by the Citizenship Bill in pursuance of this responsibility. Approval of this bill by the Parliament will act as a healer on a deep wound of Indian civilization. At the same time, it will also be our tribute to those who gave up their lives to save their culture amidst the boundaries drawn by Islamic fundamentalism in Marizhapi.