By Monica Islam:
If news reports are to be believed, there is currently an influx of refugee immigrants, especially of Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist origins, into the state of India under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Reportedly, more than 4,000 Hindus and Sikhs from neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, have been granted Indian citizenship within a year. While Firstpost’s editor-in-chief very patriotically touts this step as India’s generosity, there are many concerns which need to be addressed by the government.
Firstly, this immigration plan appears to be a replica of the model pioneered by Israel which advocated for a safe abode for persecuted Jews. The model is based on strong nationalism and communalism. In case of Israel, what started out as an innocent escape route for oppressed Jews in Europe has now turned into a battleground for settlement rights and identity issues. Arab Israelis, both Christians and Muslims, routinely complain of marginalization in the country. The world is expectant that such will not be the case in India where the rights of Indian Muslims will be threatened.
Secondly, the inclusion of refugees must not be based on their religious beliefs (unless they are facing religious persecution). Instead, it must meet the need of the hour. Right now, there are many apolitical, religion neutral cases of citizenship in India which are pending for as long as nine to sixteen years! Additionally, there is the Rohingya community, which is the most persecuted one in the world, perishing at sea. There is also the question of secularism in India. How can a religiously-neutral land proclaim unwavering allegiance to the Hindu community?
Thirdly and most importantly, is India, with the second largest population in the world, ready for a politically-motivated addition of more citizens? Already it is alleged that the Rohingya Muslim refugee population is receiving little support in India. Furthermore, one of the biggest slums of the world, Dharavi, happens to be located in the country. Apart from poverty, there is also the issue of integration and social cohesion of the immigrants. Does being Hindu automatically translate into being Indian? (If yes, then not only is secularism, as pointed out earlier, under threat, but so is religious minority rights as members of other religious groups will have to constantly prove their loyalty to India.)
Narendra Modi continues to defend his stance by speaking of national goodwill and protecting minority rights, but fails to explain how he plans to tackle the aforementioned concerns. Immigration is a burning issue in many developed countries, such as France and United Kingdom. There are fierce national debates relating to immigration in each of those countries. We would expect the same to occur in India. But not if there is any discrepancy in the reported statistics (allegedly, 600 as opposed to 4,000 Hindus have been granted Indian citizenship) in an attempt to boost the public image of Narendra Modi’s leadership.