The Print – NIA looking into Pakistan, ISI link with arrested J&K cop Davinder Singh

NIA also probing Davinder Singh links with terror outfits Lashkar and Jaish, says there could be more J&K cops involved in arranging logistics for terror operatives.

Ananya Bhardwaj

New Delhi – India, 29 January 2020. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing a “Pakistan connection” in the Davinder Singh case and have found clues to suggest that he was getting money from across the border, ThePrint has learnt.

According to a source in the NIA, the J&K deputy superintendent of police made more than four visits to Bangladesh, Dhaka and other cities, in 2019, which could be because of his connections with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI.

Two of Singh’s daughters are studying medicine in Bangladesh.

Singh was arrested on 11 January for ferrying two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists to Jammu. He is being kept in an undisclosed location in Jammu, and a NIA team from Delhi has gone there to question Singh.

Sources in the NIA said that Singh had been in touch with the terror operatives for more than two years.

“It was not the first time that Singh was ferrying terrorists to a safe house. He had done the same for money last year as well,” a source said.

Links with more terror outfits

The NIA is also investigating if Singh was in touch with other terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

“The amount of money he made and the number of operations he was a part of while being in the Special Operation Group, we suspect that he was also in touch with handlers of more terror outfits. We are going through his mobile records, chats to ascertain that,” the source said.

Although the NIA has still not been able to account for Rs 7.5 lakh, found at his residence, sources in the agency said it could be part of a hawala consignment that came from Pakistan via Delhi.

It is suspected that apart from providing logistical support to terror operatives, Singh also transported hawala money, coming from Pakistan to Delhi, to Kashmir.

“We are going through his bank accounts, transactions made by him in the last few years to trace the source of money that came into his account. His passbooks, bank details are being looked into,” the source said.

Singh had a reputation in the J&K police for being “corrupt and unscrupulous” but was yet given an out-of-turn promotion and a Police Medal on 15 August 2019.

Singh served in the J&K Police as an inspector and then DSP for over 25 years, and was posted with the anti-hijacking squad at the Srinagar airport at the time of his arrest. He was earlier the DSP of Pulwama district, and was transferred to the new, important posting last year.

More policemen on radar

The source in the NIA said they are looking at possible aides of Singh within the J&K Police who may have helped him arrange for logistics for the terror operatives.

“This is something that cannot be done alone. There is a strong possibility that there are more J&K policemen who were involved in this. We are trying to zero down on the suspects. We also have some policemen on our radar. Further probe will bring more clarity in this,” the source said.

The arrest of Singh also triggered an internal audit within the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to look for “possible moles”.

Newly-appointed Director General of the CRPF, A P Maheshwari, told reporters that an internal audit was carried out.

“The CRPF has revisited/audited our internal systems and we regularly do that to check if there were/are any attempts of subversion within the force,” Maheshwari said.

Will also probe Afzal angle

The NIA will also probe Singh’s alleged link with 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

Singh was named by Afzal Guru, who was hanged on 9 February 2013, in a letter that he wrote to his lawyer Sushil Kumar from Tihar jail.

In the letter, Afzal alleged that Singh and other officers from the J&K police not only tortured him and extorted money, but also introduced him to one of the men who later attacked Parliament. Afzal also claimed that it was Singh who asked him to arrange for a car and a place to stay for the attacker.

Singh’s role, however, was not investigated by authorities.

“Since we now have Singh in custody, we will be looking into this alleged link as well,” the NIA source said.

NIA looking into Pakistan, ISI link with arrested J&K cop Davinder Singh

The Asian Age – As polls show AAP’s rise, BJP turns to Hindutva

The Union minister blamed the AAP and the Congress for instigating violent protests against the CAA in the national capital.

Shashi Bhushan

New Delhi – India, 25 January 2020. With opinion polls and reports indicating that the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal has an edge in the forthcoming Delhi polls, the BJP has fallen back on its nationalist plank to consolidate the Hindu vote bank.

The top leaders of the party ranging from home minister Amit Shah to information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar have begun evoking Pakistan to woo the voters. The saffron camp is trying to project that the Delhi elections was actually a contest between India and Pakistan.

On Friday, Mr Javdekar, also BJP’s election in-charge for Delhi, speaking to the media said that the voters in the national capital need to decide on whether they want “Jinnah wali azadi or Bharat Mata ki jai.”

On Thursday, the home minister said that Mr Kejriwal, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan “speak the same language.” Kapil Mishra, BJP candidate from Model Town, had earlier tweeted that the Delhi election was a contest between “India and Pakistan.”

Referring to Shaheen Bagh’s anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, Mr Javedkar said : “We have seen ‘Jinnah Wali Azadi’ slogan being raised there. Now, Delhi people need to decide if they want ‘Jinnah Wali Azadi’ or ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.”

The Union minister blamed the AAP and the Congress for instigating violent protests against the CAA in the national capital. “Delhi people should ask both the parties why did they instigate violence ?

The nexus of AAP and Congress is behind the Shaheen Bagh protest. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia have supported the protest. Mr Kejriwal sympathises with people raising ‘Jinnah Wali Azadi’ slogans and not with the persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Javadekar blamed AAP and Congress for misleading and poisoning the minds of the minorities, including children. He asserted that the CAA was not going to affect citizenship of any Indian and blamed that political parties were raising the bogey of CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC) to defeat the BJP in the elections.

“The CAA is aimed at providing citizenship to persecuted minorities including Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan,” he added.

Addressing a Nukkad Sabha in the Lakshmi Nagar constituency, BJP president J P Nadda alleged that the Congress and the AAP were misleading people on the citizenship law.

Dawn – Hasina, Karzai join criticism of Indian citizenship law

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

New Delhi – India, 20 January 2020. Bangladesh and Afghanistan have opposed India’s controversial law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which cites the two together with Pakistan as the three neighbours that discriminate against non-Muslim minorities.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Hindu that the law which excludes Muslims and woos Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from the three countries for citizenship rights should be extended to everyone equally.

“We don’t have persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, the whole country is persecuted. We have been in war and conflict for a long time. All religions in Afghanistan, Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs, which are our three main religions, have suffered,” Mr Karzai said.

He was speaking to The Hindu during a visit to Delhi where he addressed the inaugural session of the government’s Raisina Dialogue. Mr Karzai said he hoped the sentiment that minorities must be protected “would be reflected in India with regard to other Afghans, who are Muslim, as well.”

Mr Karzai’s comments, differing from New Delhi’s view are significant, given that he has been seen as a strong friend of India. Like many Afghan leaders, Mr Karzai has also lived in India for several years beginning in 1976, and has studied in Shimla.

In December, India’s foreign ministry had clarified that the CAA referred to past attacks against minorities in Afghanistan and that the current government had “substantially addressed the concerns of the minority communities as per their constitutional provisions.”

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, seen as a key regional ally of India’s rightwing Hindu revivalist government, criticised the new law in an interview with Dubai’s Gulf News, saying the new law was not necessary.

Ms Hasina said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally assured her that a related new measure, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), was an internal matter of India that would not affect her people.

But the NRC is being implemented in Assam, and is proposed to be extended across the country, with a view to sending back alleged illegal Bangladeshi migrants to their country.

Home Minister Amit Shah has said the proposed countrywide NRC would be used to evict Muslim “termites”.

“We don’t understand why (the Indian government) did it. It was not necessary,” Ms Hasina told Gulf News in Abu Dhabi where she held high-level meetings. The statement is the first by the Bangladesh leader since the disputed law, that has triggered protests across India, was cleared by the Rajya Sabha on 11 December.

During the parliamentary debates, Home Minister Amit Shah repeatedly referred to persecution faced by minority communities, mainly the Hindus, in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan arguing that these groups should get citizenship rights in India. Ms Hasina distanced her country from the line taken by the Indian government.

“It is an internal affair. Bangladesh has always maintained that the CAA and NRC are internal matters of India.

The government of India, on their part, has also repeatedly maintained that the NRC is an internal exercise of India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in person assured me of the same during my visit to New Delhi in October 2019,” she said.

Ms Hasina’s government has said that minority communities did not leave her country because of persecution and maintained that there is no reverse migration from India either. “But within India, people are facing many problems,” she declared.

The Print – Amit Shah’s nationwide NRC will be the same as Modi’s demonetisation

Amit Shah’s constant demand for a countrywide NRC has been rightfully criticised. But not many have pointed out just how impractical it is.

Dhruv Rathee

New Delhi – India, 03 December 2019. Home Minister Amit Shah’s constant demand for a countrywide NRC has deservedly received plenty of criticism from a constitutional and ethical standpoint, though this hasn’t stopped him from coming up with fresh promises. On Monday, Shah said he will ensure all infiltrators are out of India by 2024.

In all this, what many have not talked about is the practicality of such a ridiculous proposal, which I would rank lower than Donald Trump’s desire to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. Many conservatives led by their ideologies might support decisions like NRC and border wall, but their economics cannot be denied by anyone.

Assam proved to be an inconvenient experiment, showing us what the result of a nationwide exercise could be. It took over four years and reportedly cost the central government Rs 1,600 crore to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

More than 55,000 people were employed, and more than 3.2 crore people from Assam applied to register themselves.

There is no official data on what it cost the average person to find the documents, fill in the application form, travel, stand in queue for hours, register themselves, and go through a verification process where many people were called over multiple times to verify their citizenship.

In several cases, the entire family had to travel long distances. Initially, 40 lakh people were excluded from the NRC list, which meant more verification rounds. All this amounted to a gigantic proportion of loss of time, money and productivity.

If only the Modi government had the example of demonetisation to know how disastrous an ill-planned decision can be.

What made the 2016 demonetisation utterly useless is how stupid the idea itself was and how arbitrary the process. In November 2016, many bankers reportedly converted “black money” into white at a commission, which eventually meant that nearly all the cash returned to the banking system.

NRC is very similar in these regards. Replace bankers with verification officers with the power to include or exclude someone from the list. The idea that some or many officers worked at a commission to randomly include or exclude people is pretty feasible.

So, it’s not a surprise that nearly everyone was disappointed with the final NRC list. Some cried over the exclusion of Hindus; others were hurt over the number of illegal Muslim immigrants being so less.

What makes NRC an even bigger blunder than demonetisation is that it doesn’t stop with the declaration of the final list. That is just the first part of the process. The bigger problem becomes clear when you think about the excluded people, what will happen to them? where will they go?

The immediate answer from someone who supports the NRC is “send them back to Bangladesh.” This is as ridiculous as Trump suggesting Mexico will pay for the wall. What’s in it for Mexico? Just like that, what’s in it for Bangladesh?

Why would it accept “illegal immigrants” unless it sees some kind of political or financial benefit? The Sheikh Hasina government has already said Bangladesh will not take in any deportees. The Modi government understands the difficulty, which is why it is going for the second option, detention centres.

Detention centres raise several ethical, moral and constitutional concerns. But let’s focus more on how practical they are since there is already a significant amount of support among the public to house ‘illegal immigrants’ in these camps.

Assam’s first detention centre is being constructed at a cost of Rs 46 crore spread over 2.5 hectares and will house 3,000 people. But there are 19 lakh people excluded from the final NRC.

Here is the math: the cost of simply building detention centres for all the excluded people will be upwards of Rs 27,000 crore. And this is just in Assam. Imagine the cost of constructing detention centres all over India. Also, how many detention centres would the Modi government construct?

Moreover, this cost doesn’t include maintenance, food, shelter, and the upkeep of these centres. We are easily looking at a figure in lakhs of crores of rupees. The same amount of money could be used to construct thousands of schools, hospitals and fund slum rehabilitation programmes, which would actually benefit Indians.

A typical question at this point will be: ‘But what about the illegal immigrants?’ ‘How should they be controlled?’ The solution is a lot simpler than what many realise; the only problem is that it’s politically not marketable, better border control and increase of foreign aid to countries like Bangladesh.

We must directly deal with the influences that make people leave their home country. Money is better spent in setting up skill development and vocational training centres, schools and universities, which will make people employable.

Not only will it foster economic development in both India and Bangladesh, but it will also improve the relationship with our neighbouring countries overall, which will make them more compliant towards immigration issues. Thus, improving lives across the border prevents people from illegally crossing over, all the while, costing the same or less amount of money.

The author is an activist and YouTuber. Views are personal.

Amit Shah’s nationwide NRC will be the same as Modi’s demonetisation – Sikhs aspirant of celebrating Vaisakhi at Gurdwara Nanak Shahi in Bangladesh asked to submit passports

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 20 December 2019. The Sarhali based Kaar Sewa seminary has requested devotees aspirant of attending Khalsa Sajna Diwas (Vaisakhi) at Gurdwara Nanakshahi, Dhaka and pay obeisance at Gurdwaras in Bangladesh to submit their passports.

Kaar Sewa seminary chief Baba Sukha Singh and secretary Harbhajan Singh informed that a special Jatha will depart for Bangladesh on April 13, 2020 in a special train from Amritsar and the Jatha will return back to Amritsar on April 26, 2020.

They have requested the aspirant devotees to submit their passports along with two colored photographs and two identification proofs at Kaar Sewa seminary office in Sarhali.

Sikhs aspirant of celebrating Vaisakhi at Gurdwara Nanak Shahi in Bangladesh asked to submit passports

World Sikh News appeals to endorse appeal to review Citizenship Amendment Act

Published 16 December – Jagmohan Singh

Human rights bodies: Human Rights Defenders’ Alert–India (HRDA), Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and United Against Hate (UAH), in collaboration with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) will be writing to India’s National Human Rights Commission seeing review of the divisive Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian Parliament.

The World Sikh News appeals to you to endorse the petition.

The deadline for endorsements: 9 PM, Tuesday, 17 December 2019′

The time is now ! The people of India, especially Muslims and more especially Muslim students are facing the wrath of the barbaric state machinery, which was evidenced in the last night attack by the Delhi Police on students within the library of the Jamia Milia University in Delhi.

To stop the fires of divisiveness from choking the rights of the people, The World of Sikh News appeals to readers to endorse the petition prepared by committed human rights activists and organisations.

Please share with friends and associates. The opening paragraph is mentioned here. The appeal is exhaustive and complete.

Go to the WSN website to endorse the appeal

The Chairperson and Members
National Human Rights Commission
New Delhi.

Subject: Urging the NHRC to exercise Section 12 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act and review the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

Respected Sirs and Madam,

We, the concerned citizens, write to you today regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), passed by the Indian Parliament on 11 December 2019 and received President’s assent on 12 December 2019. CAA violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. This when coupled with the National Register of Citizenship exercise, which is to be undertaken nationally, violates not only Article 14 but also Articles 15 and 21.

WSN appeals to endorse appeal to review Citizenship Amendment Act

The Tribune – Dal Khalsa hits out at SAD over citizenship Act

Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – india, 15 December 2019. Lambasting the SAD for endorsing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Sikh political and radical parties have argued that the decision was against the spirit and constitution of the Akalis.

Deriding the SAD leaders, who celebrated the 99th foundation day and re-nominated Sukhbir Singh Badal as party chief here on Saturday, Kanwar Pal Singh of the Dal Khalsa said earlier SAD had backed the BJP in depriving J&K of its special status and now it had supported the Centre in excluding Muslims from the Citizenship Act.

The decisions were against the spirit and constitution of SAD and also deviated from the Constitution, he said.

Kanwal Pal said SAD had lost the moral right to demand political autonomy for Punjab by endorsing these decisions. Abrogation of Article 370, Ayodhya verdict and CAA were all leading India to a theological state of one religion, he said.

“Just because the Sikhs are protected under the CAA does not mean that we do not understand the malafide intention of the Centre led by the ‘fascist’ RSS and BJP.”

The Hindu – In the name of a majority

The NRC in Assam has given us an indication of risks involved in such exercises of inclusion and exclusion

Anupama Roy

Op/Ed, 13 December 2019. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), passed in both Houses this week, promises to give the protection of citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While religious persecution is a reasonable ground for protection, the problem with the CAB is that it does not include all communities that suffered religious persecution, and explicitly excludes Muslims who suffered persecution in the specified countries and other non-Muslim majority countries like Myanmar.

This majoritarian notion of religion-based citizenship, although intrinsic to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s idea of India, is not shared by the majority of people in this country. In addition, such a view is alien to the constitutional consensus which emerged in 1950, embodying the idea of a people who committed themselves, and those governing on their behalf, to a constitutional order.

Those in support of the CAB have rallied around the argument that it is non-discriminatory and its objectives are justifiable. In doing so, they have often invoked the moral imperative of correcting a perceived past wrong, in this case the Partition. In the process, the CAB changes completely the idea of equal and inclusive citizenship promised in the Constitution.

Changes in citizenship law

The CAB cannot, however, be seen in isolation. It must be seen in tandem with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and other changes in the citizenship law, which have preceded it. The Home Minister and the Law Minister have clarified that the CAB and the NRC are distinct, the NRC protects the country against illegal migrants and the CAB protects refugees.

This, however, is incommensurate with the election speeches made by BJP leaders. For instance, speaking in Kolkata earlier this year, Amit Shah had promised an NRC in West Bengal, but only after the passage of the CAB to ensure that no Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugee is denied citizenship for being an illegal immigrant.

In a triumphal note after the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha, Mr Shah declared that a nationwide NRC would follow soon.

Despite their seemingly disparate and adversarial political imperatives, the CAB and the NRC have become conjoined in their articulation of citizenship. Indeed, the two represent the tendency towards ‘jus sanguinis’ in the citizenship law in India, which commenced in 1986, became definitive in 2003, and has reached its culmination in the contemporary moment.

In 2003, the insertion of the category ‘illegal migrants’ in the provision of citizenship by birth became the hinge from which the NRC and the CAB later emerged.

The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 made the registration of all citizens of India, issue of national identity cards, the maintenance of a national population register, and the establishment of an NRC by the Central government compulsory.

Under these rules, the Registrar General of Citizen Registration is to collect particulars of individuals and families, including their citizenship status, through a ‘house-to-house enumeration’.

In an exception to the general rule, Assam has followed a different procedure of ‘inviting applications’ with particulars of each family and individual and their citizenship status based on the NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971.

The purpose of the NRC is to sift out ‘foreigners’ and ‘illegal migrants’, who were referred to at different points as ‘infiltrators’ and ‘aggressors’, and a threat to the territory and people of India.

Exempting minority groups

The second strand emerging from the 2003 amendment has taken the form of the CAB, which exempts ‘minority communities’, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians, from three countries, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, from the category of ‘illegal migrants’.

The CAB brings the citizenship law in line with exemptions already made in the Passport Act 1920 and Foreigners Act 1946 through executive orders in September 2015 and July 2016. It sets a cut-off date of December 31, 2014 as the date of eligibility of illegal migrants for exemption.

It must be noted that a PIL filed by the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha pending before the Supreme Court has contested the deviation in the cut-off date set for Assam by the Citizenship Amendment Act 1986, March 24, 1971, from the date specified in Article 6 of the Constitution, i.e., July 19, 1948, which applies to the rest of the country.

The CAB is applicable to entire India, and takes the cut-off date forward by several years.

The claim that the CAB does not violate the Constitution is reflective of the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC was advised by constitutional experts to use a broader category, ‘persecuted minorities’, to protect the Bill from the charge of violating the right to equality in Article 14.

The CAB uses the category ‘minority communities’ and goes on to identify them on the ground of religion. The notifications of September 2015 and July 2016, which changed the Passport and Foreigners Acts, had mentioned the term ‘religious persecution’.

The consideration of religious persecution for making a distinction among persons, the JPC argued, could not be discriminatory, because the distinction was both intelligible and reasonable, satisfying the standards laid down in the Supreme Court judgment in State of West Bengal vs. Anwar Ali Sarkarhabib (1952) to affirm adherence to Article 14.

Test of reasonableness

The JPC appears, however, to have overlooked the substantive conditions that the Supreme Court laid down in the same verdict. These require that the criteria of intelligibility of the differentia and the reasonableness of classification, must satisfy both grounds of protection guaranteed by Article 14, i.e., protection against discrimination and protection against the arbitrary exercise of state power.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court judgement in Naz Foundation vs Government of NCT of Delhi referred to “a catena of decisions” to lay down a further test of reasonableness, requiring that the objective for such classification in any law must also be subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The restraint on state arbitrariness, according to the judgment, was to come from constitutional morality, which as B R Ambdkar declared in the Constituent Assembly, was the responsibility of the state to protect.

It remains a puzzle as to why the government wishes to change the citizenship law to address the problem of refugees. The JPC refers to standard operating procedures for addressing the concerns of refugees from neighbouring countries.

In the case of refugees from the erstwhile West Pakistan who deposed before the JPC in favour of a CAB, the standard operating procedure was the grant of long-term visas leading to citizenship.

One wonders how these refugees will benefit from a law which will put them through an arduous process of proving religious persecution. Immediately after Partition, ‘displaced persons’ constituted an administrative category, and citizenship files of 1950s tell us how district officials expedited their citizenship in the process of preparation of electoral rolls.

The focus in the recent parliamentary debates, for various reasons, was the eastern borders. States in the region have resisted the CAB, and simultaneously asked for an NRC. West Bengal has been an exception. The reality of imposing a national order of things, through a CAB and an NRC, in non-national spaces will unfold in future but Assam has given us adequate evidence of the risks involved.

It can only be hoped that the judiciary and civil society are able to restore constitutional and democratic politics through an exercise of counter-majoritarian power in a context where electoral gains have determined political choices.

Anupama Roy teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

BBC News – Citizenship Amendment Bill: Are India’s claims about minorities in other countries true?

Reality Check team BBC News

New Delhi – India, 12 December 2019. The Indian government has introduced a controversial bill offering citizenship to illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries if they belong to non-Muslim minority groups.

Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who have entered India illegally can apply for citizenship if they can prove they originate from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.

The government argues that minorities in those countries are dwindling, and that they face persecution on the grounds of their faith.

The legislation has been criticised as discriminatory in India because it excludes Muslims seeking citizenship as well.

So what is the situation facing non-Muslims in those three neighbouring states?

How many non-Muslims?

Amit Shah, India’s Home Minister, says Pakistan’s non-Muslim population has dwindled dramatically since 1951. This follows the mass exodus of non-Muslims from Pakistan after partition in 1947 and the flight of Muslims from India to Pakistan.

Mr Shah cited a remaining minority population in Pakistan of 23% in 1951, and he says this has shrunk over the decades due to persecution.

But Mr Shah’s figures need to be challenged as he appears to have combined the data for what is now the state of Pakistan (formerly west Pakistan) with what is now Bangladesh (formerly east Pakistan).

Census data for 1998 shows that the Hindu population of Pakistan (which was formerly west Pakistan) had not really changed significantly from its 1951 level of around 1.5 to 2%.

But the data also suggests that the Hindu population of Bangladesh did fall, from around 22% or 23% in 1951 to around 8% in 2011.

There are other non-Muslim religious minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh, such as Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Parsis. And in Pakistan, there are also Ahmadis, who were declared non-Muslim by the government in the 1970s, and are estimated to be around four million strong, making them the largest religious minority in the country.

In Afghanistan, non-Muslim groups include Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais and Christians, and make up less than 0.3% of the population. In 2018, there were just 700 Sikhs and Hindus left in Afghanistan as families had been leaving because of the conflict there, according to a report for the US State Department.

What’s the official status of non-Muslims?

The Indian government’s citizenship bill states: “The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries”.

It’s true that the state religion of Pakistan is Islam. Afghanistan is also an Islamic state.

In Bangladesh the situation is more complicated. The country came into being in 1971 with a secular constitution, but in 1988 Islam was made the official state religion.

A lengthy legal battle to get that reversed ended in 2016 when Bangladesh’s top court ruled that Islam should remain the state religion.

However, all these countries have constitutional provisions stating that non-Muslims have rights and are free to practise their faith. And individual Hindus have risen to prominent positions in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, notably as chief justices in the two countries.

Do the minorities face discrimination?

In practice, non-Muslim minorities do face discrimination and persecution.

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

Human rights group Amnesty International has pointed to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which it says “are vaguely formulated and arbitrarily enforced by the police and judiciary in a way which amounts to harassment and persecution of religious minorities”.

Pakistani Hindus who moved to India in recent years told the BBC they face social and religious discrimination, with a particular issue being the targeting of Hindu girls in Sindh province.

But it’s also true that Ahmadis, who are not covered by India’s citizenship bill, face discrimination for their beliefs as they are regarded as heretical by the Muslim majority.

And the majority of blasphemy cases up to 2018 had been filed against other Muslims and Ahmadis, not against Christians or Hindus.

In Bangladesh, there are various reasons for the decline in the proportion of Hindus over the years. The better-off Hindu population have had their homes and businesses targeted, sometimes in attempts to get them to leave so their land or assets can be taken over. Hindus have also been the targets of attacks by religious militants.

The Bangladesh government has rejected India’s claims about minorities being targeted. Foreign Minister Abdul Monem told the BBC: “We don’t have examples of minorities being persecuted in this country.”

According to UN data, the number of refugees in India went up by 17% between 2016-19. As of August this year, the biggest numbers registered with the UN were actually from Tibet and Sri Lanka.

The Print – Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution

Read full text of statement signed by more than 1,000 scientists & scholars who say they find it troubling that bill uses    religion as a criterion to determine citizenship.

Bengaluru -Karnataka – India, 09 December 2019. In a statement circulated online, more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars from the country and abroad have released a statement opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill tabled Lok Sabha by the Narendra Modi government Monday.

The 2019 bill, which was approved by the Union cabinet on 4 December, seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there.

In the statement, the scientists have argued that the “use of religion as a criterion for citizenship” would be a “radical break” with the idea of independent, post-colonial India. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955 and would reduce the residence period in India from 11 years to six years to obtain citizenship.

Drafted over the weekend, tT. These include scientists and research scholars from institutions such as various IITs, the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS, Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR, Mumbai), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Indian Statistical Institute, and different IISERs as well as international institutes such as Harvard University, University of Chicago, University of Toronto, Nikhef Amsterdam, and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics.

Signatories also include directors of major research institutions, such as Rajesh Gopakumar of ICTS, Sandip Trivedi of TIFR, and Atish Dabholkar of International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy.

We are a group of Indian scientists and scholars

We are issuing this statement in our personal capacity as concerned citizens to express our dismay at the reported plans to table the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 in the parliament. We do not have access to the exact text of the current version of the Bill.

Our statement is based on media reports and the text of the previous version of the Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha in January 2019. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to issue this statement already at this point of time in view of the reports that the Bill may be tabled in parliament early next week and may be taken up for voting in both houses soon after.

We understand that the Bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The stated intent of the Bill is to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries.

While we support this laudable objective, we find it deeply troubling that the Bill uses religion as a legal criterion for determining Indian citizenship.

The idea of India that emerged from the independence movement, and as enshrined in our constitution, is that of a country that aspires to treat people of all faiths equally. The use of religion as a criterion for citizenship in the proposed bill would mark a radical break with this history and would be inconsistent with the basic structure of the constitution.

We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the Bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country.

We note that article 14 of the Indian constitution prohibits the State from denying “to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” While it is the job of legal experts to determine whether this draft bill violates the letter of the constitution, it seems certain to us that it violates its spirit.

For the reasons mentioned above, we call for the immediate withdrawal of this bill and as its replacement request for appropriate legislation that will address the concerns of refugees and minorities in a non-discriminatory manner.

Over 1,000 scientists oppose citizenship bill, say it violates spirit of Constitution