Secularism at risk by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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During my visits to India for religious rituals, what I have observed is that Indian Muslims are as patriotic to their country as their Hindu or Christian community is. Regardless of their religious affiliations, local Muslims are playing a pivotal role in national development in India.

However, the recently-passed controversial citizens bill has resulted in creating an atmosphere of fear and anxiety throughout the country. According to the bill, non-Muslims refugees from nearby Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan can apply for Indian citizenship. However, Muslims are not included.

The entire Muslim community is in shock; violent riots have erupted in different areas; human rights activists are on the roads to record their protest; many educational institutes are closed; and at least five Indian states have refused to implement the recently-passed controversial bill. There are also reports about resignations by many Muslim government officers as protest against the citizenship bill. The international community, including the US, is also showing serious reservations regarding this act. Keeping the current situation in view, many heads of states are considering to postpone their visit to India.

I believe that the issue related to Muslims and Kashmir has now spread across India. Since Independence, India has portray itself as a secular state and the world’s largest democracy before the international community where every citizen, regardless of his/her religious affiliation, has the freedom to spend their life. However, this recent Indian citizenship law has not only made Indian Muslims insecure but also put a question mark on the big claims of India. I mentioned in my last column that Pakistan came into existence on the basis of the Two-Nation Theory, but at the time of Independence, our founding father Quaid-e-Azam had emphasized that all residents of Pakistan are now one nation and will be called Pakistani regardless of their religious affiliation and geographical location.

As far as India is concerned, the Indian leadership has never accepted the Two-Nation Theory, and opposed the formation of Pakistan. The recent turmoil has proved that the demand of a Muslim-majority separate country was a wise decision by our elders under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam. The Pakistani Hindu community committed to declare Pakistan as its dharti mata (motherland) after the August 11 speech of Quaid-e-Azam.

On the issue of the current bill, I also exchanged views with some intellectuals across the border. I was informed that unlike the Hindu population, the Indian Muslim community is growing so rapidly that Hindu nationalists have concerns that India may transform into yet another Muslim majority country in the near future. Due to a democratic setup to elect the government, local Muslims may be in a better position to influence the policymaking processes. In order to increase the Hindu vote bank, the current Indian leadership is interested in offering citizenship to non-Muslim migrants of neighbouring countries.

In my view, all such assumptions regarding the future are ridiculous and sensible nations never sabotage their ideological foundation on the basis of fabricated facts. The wrong decision of the citizenship bill by the Indian government is not only against its own constitution but it has also affected India’s claims of democracy. On the other hand, the region is also facing another challenge in the form of religious immigrants.

If we talk about Islam or Hinduism, every religion has taught its people about serving humanity irrespective of religious bonds. We must understand that God’s blessings are for everyone; and that’s why we should behave politely and kindly with our fellow human beings.

This kind of religious citizenship offer will not benefit India because no Muslim from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan would think about migrating to India. However, India will definitely face the consequences of this controversial bill because it has made the patriotic local Muslim community insecure. This unnecessary act will also affect the image of India at the international level. Similarly, the border situation with Pakistan and Bangladesh may also become tense. The Indian citizenship bill has also promoted the Two-Nation Theory of Quaid-e-Azam.

To rectify this severe mistake, the Indian government should review its policies and bring back its constitution to its original form. Every patriotic and wise Pakistani Hindu citizen is well aware of the real motives behind the Indian citizenship bill and would never think of migrating from their beloved motherland Pakistan.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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