Post Mortem

Charity begins at home

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/14/2019 11:21:45 AM IST

 In the background of the great apprehensions of the people of North-East India (NEI), expressed through spontaneous protests, both prior to and in the aftermath of the CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019) becoming CAA (Citizenship Amended Act 2019), and also urged by Prophet Isaiah’s inspiring words, “For Zion’s sake (read “for NEI’s benefit”) I will not keep silent…until her vindication shines out like the dawn” (Is. 62:1-2), here comes an apolitical, a layman’s plain reflection on the prevailing situation.

As the protests are still raging in North-East India against the passage of the CAB perhaps in an unwarranted hurry to hasten the granting of Indian citizenship to refugees from the PAB countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh), I am reminded of a popular phrase by Sir Thomas Browne, “Charity begins at home…” (Cf. Religio Medici, 1642). The dictum, perhaps, expresses the overriding demand to take care of one's family (read “one’s nation”), before caring for others.

The fact that our political leaders are thinking of the welfare of the refugees who have come to India (especially to the North-East) to flee the alleged religious persecutions in their respective countries, seems highly magnanimous and praiseworthy. But here comes the question of priority. The ‘noble act’ of helping the outsiders could be justified and almost border on deep spirituality, if the problems of the natural citizens (of North-East India) were solved first: population explosion (the Assam Government has already warned on 23 October 2019 that families with more than two children will be debarred from government jobs from 1 January 2021), growing unemployment (highest in 45 years), spiralling prices of essential commodities, miserable road connectivity, erratic power supply, devastating floods  every year, rapidly growing threat to indigenous cultures due to influx of outsiders, et al.

The situation of demographic imbalance is strongly felt in India’s third smallest state, Tripura. According to 2001 Census, the tribal state of Tripura has 70% outsiders and only 30% indigenous population.

The state of Assam experiences the problem of illegal immigrants acutely. Most of the refugees came from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. These immigrants pose a threat to the land, economy, jobs, religion and culture of the local citizens. 

The famous Assam Movement (1979 – 1985) spearheaded by the AASU (All Assam Students’ Union) ended with the Assam Accord signed between the AASU leaders and the Indian Government with the agreement that the refugees would be detected and deported. The conversion of the CAB into CAA 2019 seems to nullify the promises of the Assam Accord and seemingly favours not those who actually voted the political parties to power but the prospective voters from outside. Moreover, the new citizenship bill (CAA 2019), is described by many legal luminaries as unconstitutional as it is based on religious discrimination and excludes the persecuted Ahmaddiyas, Hazaras and Shias from the three PAB countries as well as the displaced Hindus of Sri Lanka and the Christians of Bhutan from the purview naturalized Indian citizenship.

The problems of religious minorities from/in our neighbouring countries could be better solved through robust diplomatic efforts. This is, in fact, more possible now than ever before, given the fact that our current Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has umpteen times demonstrated a rare quality of creating a special chemistry of friendship and working relationship with most of the heads of nations. Counting on this personal ability of the Prime Minister and enlisting the help of the international human rights bodies, India could stop or minimize religious persecutions of minorities in our neighbouring countries, thus preventing further influx of refugees into India. Some of the refugees who have sneaked into the Indian soil illegally could be repatriated. 

Such measures, of course, might require long and sustained efforts. But these steps would be more plausible than the facile measures of sheltering the refugees in India, particularly in the underdeveloped North-East India and putting the indigenous population to further suffering and sense of insecurity. Hasty and uncalculated steps of granting Indian citizenship to the outsiders, would fling open the floodgates of illegal migration into the Indian soil. It would also unnecessarily create the opinion that Sir Thomas Browne’s dictum has now been replaced with the phrase, “Charity begins outside”. 

Jonas Kerketta, Bosco College of Teacher Education, Dimapur

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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