Future of minorities in Indo-Pak. By Nasir Saeed

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Protests against the amended Citizenship Act introduced by Narendra Modi’s government continue to grow and intensify in India. Although this bill is against Muslims, there is hope as Muslims are not alone. People from all faiths, even Hindus, and all factions of society, including media, academics and politicians, have joined the voices against this discriminatory bill.

 There is no doubt that the founders of both Pakistan and India were strong believers of democracy, equality and equal citizenship rights, but Pakistan deprived its minorities of equal citizenship rights long ago by approving the Objective Resolution in 1949 and embarking on a process of Islamisation. It introduced tough laws aimed at religious minorities in the 1970s and 1980s, and now India is heading on a similar path.

Protests against the amended Citizenship Act introduced by Narendra Modi’s government continue to grow and intensify in India. Although this bill is against Muslims, there is hope as Muslims are not alone. People from all faiths, even Hindus, and all factions of society, including media, academics and politicians, have joined the voices against this discriminatory bill.

 It is very encouraging that at least ten chief ministers in India have opposed the law, under which non-Muslims from neighbouring countries would be granted fast-track citizenship but Muslims would be denied. The amended bill not only violates the rights of Muslims, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution but is also against international covenants, like the International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), to which India is a stated party. The opposition has branded the bill unconstitutional.

 India is a secular state that’s supposed to remain indifferent to individual beliefs and ensure that every individual enjoys equal rights and religious freedom. However, since the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power, religious extremism against non-Hindus continues to grow, especially under the leadership of Narendra Modi. India’s secularism is now in danger as discrimination and persecution against religious minorities continue to rise. Under Modi’s leadership, the prominence of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva is being promoted and now seems to be dominant in politics and everyday life.

With the history of communal violence in India, this scenario will be quite threatening for minorities. They will have no future in India if this situation continues and secularism is replaced by religion, as we have seen in Pakistan.

Jinnah was driven by a desire for fairness. He was keen that Pakistan’s minorities would not suffer in the way that Pakistan’s Muslims had in Indi. Unfortunately, the condition of both countries’ minorities is lamentable and getting worse because politicians of both nations have deviated from the vision of their founders.

There is no doubt that the founders of both Pakistan and India were strong believers of democracy, equality and equal citizenship rights, but Pakistan deprived its minorities of equal citizenship rights long ago by approving the Objective Resolution in 1949 and embarking on a process of Islamisation. It introduced tough laws aimed at religious minorities in the 1970s and 1980s, and now India is heading on a similar path.

But sadly, after 72 years, we are still searching for Jinnah’s vision of the country, which is based on his historic speech on August 11, 1947, when he clearly said, “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed…that has nothing to do with the business of the State… You will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

 According to experts-whether by national or international standards-the acid test of democracy is its treatment of minorities, and through several articles of the constitution, we have already deprived minorities of their equal rights and barred them from participating and fulfilling their roles in the government. Yet our politicians and bureaucrats never tire of saying that minorities enjoy equal rights in Pakistan. We have set our own standards and use our own lens and framework to measure equal rights for religious minorities in Pakistan, while the best way to view the treatment of minorities is from the perspective of international human rights law.

 The nation does not need a Naya (new) Pakistan but Quaid’s Pakistan. We have failed to protect and safeguard religious minorities and, frankly speaking, while I believe there is still some hope for India’s minorities as long as the country’s constitution remains secular, there is little hope for Pakistan’s minorities.

(Courtesy; Daily Times)

 

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