In a ludicrous and crass display of hate towards India’s Constitution, her basic federal structure and spirit, the CPIM government in Kerala passed an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) resolution calling for it to be scrapped. The Congress party, which has now become the principal instrument for fomenting, articulating and perpetuating sentiments and acts of separatism and vandalism, also supported the irrational resolution thus displaying a complete disregard for Constitutional propriety.
Ironically the CPI, in its Amritsar Party congress in 1958 had passed the following resolution, “Their [refugees] plight cannot but evoke the deepest sympathies of all and their problem is one that is eminently human as well as national…Expressing its full sympathy for the just cause of the refugees, the Congress calls upon the government to change its present attitude and policy towards displaced persons from East Bengal and accept their just demands…” Pinarayi’s government and Sitaram Yechury’s politburo seem to lack memory of their own ideological past or is it that their compulsive obsession with vote-bank politics, this infatuation with separatism was not as strong in them in the past as it is now?
The Congress’s first family took personal insult to its mauling defeat in the 2019 general elections and since then, its members have been associating themselves with curious and surprising movements – movements and demands that have as their deeper objective, the dissolution of the Indian Union and of India itself. Its anti-CAA attitude is an expression of that frustration. The party’s first family is completely divorced from the party’s history and positions that its own leaders had taken in the past on a particular issue. Its ignorance was seen during the abrogation of 370 debate and is again exposed now during the CAA discourse. There are numerous examples of how Congress leaders in the past have spoken for the need to have a humane and different approach towards those Hindus and members of other minority communities who were uprooted from their homes in Pakistan because of religious persecution. Many of these examples have been cited in the last few weeks.
The trauma of the Bengali Hindu refugees especially has been the subject of much discussion in the past and yet, present Congress leaders come across as politically illiterate as far as their own party’s history is concerned. Union education minister in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet between 1967-69, a towering educationist and intellectual, founding vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University and also vice-chancellor of BHU, Dr Triguna Sen, for instance, in his foreword to Prafulla Chakrabarti’s seminal work, “Marginal Men: the refugees and the Left Political Syndrome in West Bengal”, one of the most authoritative and fascinating account of the refugee movement in West Bengal and the entire partition narrative of India’s eastern front, clearly writes that “the uprooting did not occur in East Pakistan in one swift swipe. It was like a wasting disease. But it was this slow and surer process which ensured the steady expulsion of a completely denuded Hindu population through riots sponsored by an Islamic State and social, economic and religious persecution of the Hindus by Muslims in collusive partnership with the bureaucracy…” Analysing the Nehru-Liaquat Pact, Dr Sen argued that it ensured that “the Muslims who had left West Bengal returned and Nehru saw to it that their property was restored to them. But the exodus of the Hindus continued and lingers on to this day. Even the Buddhist Chakmas of the Chittagong Hill Tract are now  being hounded out of the recesses of their Hills.”
The failure of the Nehru-Liaquat Pact accentuated the citizenship, refugee, and rehabilitation debate. How is it so difficult for today’s Congress to stand by leaders of its past on this issue? Immediately after the Nehru-Liaquat Pact was inked, a majority of Congress leaders had already sensed its futility. An interesting report in the Sunday Statesman of August 6, 1950, titled “Hindu Exodus from East Bengal – Congress M.P.s’ Deep Concern” gives a good description of their collective mood prior to a discussion on the Bengal situation on August 7, 1950, in which Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, made a detailed expose of how the Pact failed to protect minorities in East Pakistan. The report is instructive, “The Congress party in Parliament is meeting tomorrow [Monday, August 7, 1950] afternoon to discuss the Bengal situation to decide its attitude in regard to this problem [Hindu exodus from East Bengal] which will come up for debate in Parliament on Monday. Members are taking deep interest in the question and a feeling is growing that the Nehru-Liaquat Ali Pact has failed in the main objective of stemming the tide of Hindu exodus from East Bengal or creating any sense of confidence and security among the minorities of East Bengal. All available indications point to the conclusion that the Hindus cannot stay in East Bengal so long as it does not change its Islamic concept as a State. It is felt that a revision of the Pact in the light of these given realities is needed, as the hopes on which the pact was based on have been belied…” Congress of today, therefore, oozes hypocrisy when it opposes CAA and its fear-mongering postures and narratives are doubly hypocritical.
Nehru, Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather, for all his promises and assurances, displayed at times a peculiar ambivalence when it came to Bengali Hindu refugees. For instance, as Prafulla Chakrabarti records, when a delegation of refugee Congressmen led by veteran Gandhian and Congressman Amritalal Chatterjee attended the AICC’s Jaipur session in 1948, they had hoped to submit a memorandum to Nehru demanding permanent rehabilitation for refugees from East Pakistan. But at Jaipur, notes, Chakrabarti, “they were stunned by Nehru’s reaction to the memorandum”, he told them that the “refugees were all foreigners; so the Karma Parishad [Nikhil Vanga Bastuhara Karma Parishad] representatives had better talk to the foreign bureau of the AICC…The Karma Parishad leaders came back from the Jaipur Session completely disillusioned.” The present Congress leadership is again treating these refugees as foreigners. By refusing to differentiate between the illegal infiltrator who comes in not because of religious persecution but because of economic and other reasons and those who have come because of the trauma of religious persecution and victimisation, it is, in essence, insulting them, their self-esteem and aspirations.
In fact, the Congress and the communist parties, by fomenting violence on CAA are spearheading a campaign against the Constitution and against Parliament itself. Prime Minister Modi rightly said in Tumkur that if they have to oppose, if they have to protest, then why are they not doing so against Pakistan’s record of treating its minorities, why are they opposing the granting of citizenship rights to hapless and persecuted minorities from Pakistan?
This is a question that neither the Congress, its first family nor its political minions in the communist parties have answered. Why is it that the granting of citizenship rights to refugees who have had to flee their homes because of systematic and continuous persecution, has become such a prestige issue with the Congress that it is going all out to oppose it? Why is it that the Congress’s heart bleeds for stone-pelters of Jamia and vandals belonging to or backed by breaking India units like the Popular Front of India (PFI) but it has hardly anything to say in support of hapless Dalit Hindu refugees who were uprooted from the land of their ancestors?