New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while introducing the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 or CAB in Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) on December 9, misled the nation when he said that had Congress not agreed to Partition of the country on the basis of religion, the BJP government today would have not brought the Bill.
“Why do we need this Bill today? After Independence, if Congress had not done Partition on the basis of religion, then we would have not needed this Bill today. The Congress did Partition on the basis of religion,” he said aggressively amid Opposition uproar during the motion to introduce CAB.
So, did the Congress really partition India on the basis of religion?
Experts contest the Home Minister’s claim on the floor of the House, with some dubbing it as a “white lie” and far away from facts.
The first rebuttal came from Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former aide of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who tweeted: “In the history of Parliament, rarely have we heard a senior minister speak such a WHITE LIE to defend a black law! The Congress did NOT do, nor accept, Partition on the basis of religion. Muslim League did. The Congress remained committed to India as a secular nation. The BJP has not.” (sic)
Quoting socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia’s book, Guilty Men of India’s Partition, S. Raghavan of Ashoka University, tweeted: “Let there be no doubt about it. Those who have shouted loudest about Akhand Bharat, the present Jana Sangh and its predecessors of the curiously un-Hindu spirit of Hinduism, have held Britain and the Muslim League partition of the country.” (sic)
Historian S Irfan Habib, too, tweeted referring to Shah’s baseless comment, “You say such things on the floor of the House because you never ever cared to read or understand history based on facts.” (sic)
Before India was partitioned in 1947, the idea of separate nations for Hindus and Muslims was a dominant discourse among a section of influential leaders across political affiliations. In fact, it was Hindu Mahasabha’s Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who had proposed the ‘two-nation theory’ in his 1923 book, originally titled, Essentials of Hindutva, which was later retitled as Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu? The book was published in 1928, as many as 16 years before Mohammad Ali Jinnah proposed the same idea. Later, the Muslim League adopted the Lahore Resolution (also known as Pakistan Resolution) on March 23-24, 1940.
Initially, the Congress did not support Partition on religious lines, but had to give up because Jinnah was firm on his stand on creating a separate nation for Muslims. On the other side, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were extremely unhappy with Jinnah’s stand.
Nehru, in his book, Discovery of India, contested Jinnah's proposal of the two-nation theory. “Why only two I do not know, for if nationality was based on religion, then there were many nations in India. Of two brothers, one may be a Hindu, another a Muslim; they would belong to two different nations,” he wrote.
But Savarkar, while delivering the presidential address at the 19th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Karnavati (now Ahmedabad) in 1937, said: "As it is there are two antagonist nations living side by side in India. Several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. These, our well-meaning but unthinking friends take their dreams for realities. That is why they are impatient of communal tangles and attribute them to communal organisations.”
“But the solid fact is that the so-called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and Moslims. When time is ripe, you can solve them; but you can not suppress them by merely refusing recognition of them. It is safer to diagnose and treat deep sealed disease than to ignore it. Let us bravely face unpleasant facts as they are. India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems in India."
BR Ambedkar, the architect of India’s Constitution, wrote, "Strange it may appear, Mr Savarkar and Mr Jinnah, instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two-nations issue, are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist, that there are two nations in India - one the Moslem nation and the other Hindu nation."
Will the Bill Able to Sail Through Rajya Sabha?
The Citizenship Bill, which seeks to give Indian nationality to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, was passed by the Lok Sabha, with 311 MPs voting in favour and 80 against it, where the ruling BJP has a brute majority. The proposed legislation is slated to be presented in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) on Wednesday, where the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) does not have majority.
However, the BJP is said to have managed a majority mark of 121 of the total 240 by negotiating with members of the House to get the Bill passed. The NDA has 106 seats in the Rajya Sabha. It is said to have got support of the 28 members belonging to non-NDA and non-UPA parties, which have supported the Bill in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has 62 seats in the Upper House and it is being supported by 44 members who belong to non-UPA and non-NDA parties, which are opposing the Bill.
The House has five vacant seats (two from Assam, one each from Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha). Of the 12 nominated members of the Rajya Sabha, eight have joined the BJP. Of the rest four nominated members, three are in support of the Bill.
The parties who MPs voted in favour of the Bill in the Lok Sabha include the BJP, the Shiv Sena (after proposing some amendments which was later defeated), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Union Minister Ramvilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Jagan Reddy's YSRCP, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the AIADMK, Nagaland's NDPP, Mizoram's MNF, Manipur's NPF and Meghalaya's NPP.
The parties that voted against the Bill are the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the DMK, the NCP, the BSP, the SP, the CPM, the CPI, the AIMIM, the IUML, the AIUDF, the RSP, the Sikkim Karantikari Morcha, the VCK (Tamil Nadu), the Kerala Congress (M) and the Aam Admi Party (AAP).
There seems to be a crack in the JD(U) over the issue of support to the controversial Bill. Senior JD(U) leader Pavan Kumar Varma has appealed party chief Nitish Kumar to reconsider support to the proposed legislation in the Rajya Sabha.
"I urge Shri Nitish Kumar to reconsider support to the CAB in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory and against the unity and harmony of the country, apart from being against the secular principles of the JDU. Gandhiji would have strongly disapproved it," he tweeted.
Also, as per tweets by former BJP ally and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, whose party voted in favour of CAB in Lok Sabha, Sena may not vote for CAB in Rajya Sabha until some of its “queries” are unanswered. Incidentally, Sena is now running the Maharashtra government in alliance with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.