By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Home Minister Amit Shah while moving the Citizenship Amendment Bill on 11 December 2019 in Rajya Sabha did a Dumbo act when he said that population of religious minorities in Pakistan has declined from 23% in 1947 to 3.7% in 2011 and in Bangladesh from 22 % in 1947 to 7.8 % in 2011.
Citizen Amendment Bill was brought in Parliament to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who fled to India due to religious persecution from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, all Muslim majority countries.
The Home Minister while giving the figures did not give any source of his claim and he peddled his lie as a diktat to be accepted by the nation as truth.
The Home Minister did not give any numbers of the persecuted non-Muslims that have come to India before 2014 and how many of them will be getting the Indian citizenship.
The Citizen Amendment Act is linked to National Citizen Register in Assam where some 14 lakhs Hindus are identified to illegal migrants and will be entitled to Indian citizenship as they come under the CAA provision to be living in India before 2014. Therefore CAA has opened a Pandora box in the country because it is based on religious grounds favors Hindus and discriminates Muslims.
This led to spontaneous anti CAA protest in several places in the country and is still continuing even the monster of Corona virus is looming large in India.
Amit Shah’s blatant lie in the Parliament that he mouthed now stand exposed when the figures of non-Muslims population in Pakistan and Bangladesh has now come into Public domain.
While there is no data of non-Muslim population is available for Afghanistan the census data of Pakistan and Bangladesh is now available. This naked truth exposes the Home Minister’s thug mind and his ways to promote his Hindu agenda through BJP’s Parliamentary majority.
The Home Minister made public statement in the Parliament to justify Citizen Amendment Act and reason he cited was that this was due to the decline of non-Muslim population in Pakistan from 23% in 1947 to 3.7% in 2011, and in Bangladesh from 22% in 1947 to 7.8 % in 2011. Let’s separate the separate the chaff from the grain or this lie from the truth.
The first census in Pakistan was carried out in 1951 that included both East and West Pakistan and as per this census non-Muslims share was 14.20 per cent in undivided Pakistan. In West Pakistan, the non-Muslim population was 3.44 per cent, while in East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh) non-Muslim population was 23.20 per cent.
The next census in Pakistan was carried out in 1961 which said the non-Muslim population in West Pakistan had reduced to 2.83 per cent. The 1972 census shows non-Muslims in Pakistan comprised 3.25 per cent. This was higher than their share in 1961. The next census was carried out in 1981 non-Muslim population saw a miniscule rise from 3.25 per cent in 1972 to 3.30 per cent in 1981. In 1998 non-Muslim population was 3.70 per cent in Pakistan. There is no data available after that.
The non-Muslim population was never 23 per cent in Pakistan. Even in undivided Pakistan, share of non-Muslim population never even touched the 15 per cent mark with highest being 14.2 per cent in 1951.
With regard to Bangladesh the 1951 census data show that non-Muslims population was 23.20 per cent in East Pakistan. By 1961, this share had reduced to 19.57 per cent. In 1974 it further reduced to 14.60 per cent; in 1981 to 13.40 per cent; in 1991 to 11.70 per cent and in 2001 to 10.40 per cent and 2011 it was 9.60 per cent. So between 1951 and 2011, non-Muslims population shrunk from a high of 23.20 per cent to a low 9.40 per cent.
What happened to non-Muslim population in Bangladesh from 1951 to 2011 is left to individual interpretation. There could be multiple factors to this phenomenon and attribute to religious persecution could be a judgmental reason.
The other reason could be outward migration of non-Muslims from Bangladesh into India for greener pastures or “Lebensraum” survival problem in living space to describe physical geography as a factor that influences human activities. This out migration was not just of Hindus, but also of Muslims. So to describe the reasons in decline of the share of non-Muslim population to be persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh could be a mere fallacy.
In sum, to accept Amit Shah’s rationale to bring the Citizen Amendment Bill in Parliament was ludicrous. Actually, Shah used the 23 per cent figure of non-Muslims in Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) in 1951 and compared it with the 3.7 per cent figure of non-Muslims in Pakistan today. This mix-up of figures reduced the non-Muslims from 23 per cent to 3.7 per cent in Pakistan. This is what is called a Dumbo’s act.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org