India and equal respect for all communities and sects

India is largely a country of
old immigrants, which explains its tremendous diversity. It follows that
tolerance and equal respect for all communities and sects are an absolute
imperative if we wish to keep India united. If it was believed at one time that
Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India, that view has since been
considerably modified. Now the generally accepted belief is that the
pre-Dravidian aborigines, that is, the ancestors of the present tribals or
Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes), were the original inhabitants. This is the thesis
put forward in a judgment delivered on January 5, 2011, by a Supreme Court of India Bench comprising Justice
Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra in in Kailas & Others versus
State of Maharashtra TR. Taluka P.S.
Probably about 92 percent of the people
living in India today are descendants of
immigrants, who came mainly from the North-West, and to a lesser extent from
the North-East.1

On December 31, at the stroke
of midnight, the Assam government published the first draft of an updated
version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with the names of 1.9 crore
people. Assam is the only State in the country that prepared an NRC in 1951
following the census of that year and has become the first State to get the
first draft of its own updated NRC.  The
Bangladeshi Liberation Movement which sent a
great number of illegal Bangladeshi
immigrants to Assam and West Bengal. The Government at that time declared that anyone who entered the State after the
midnight of March 24, 1971, will be considered as a foreigner. Once the whole
NRC  exercise is over, it is expected to
tell the authorities how many migrants might have illegally settled down in the
State. It will also provide dignity to all those Bengali-speaking settlers who
continue to live under the shadow of being called “illegal Bangladeshis.”2

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The long burning issue of the
Rohingyas in Myanmar has recently become a point of debate in India, with the
government insisting on their deportation for the sake of national security.
Perceived threats to India’s national security is based on intelligence reports
that connect radical Rohingya groups to Jihadist organisations.  While the historicity and identity of the
Rohingyas were at the heart of the
conflict between them and the Burmese state, the cases of humanitarian assault
on the community by the Myanmar military has turned it into what is being
referred to as an instance of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Over time the
Rohingya issue has transformed into that of a refugee crisis, with Myanmar,
Bangladesh and India brooding over their origins and destination.3 The
Supreme Court has termed this crisis as an extraordinary situation and has
expressed the need to strike a balance between national interests and human
rights. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs,
there are approximately 40,000 Rohingyas living in India.

However, India has been
open to accepting some immigrants
communities. Around a lakh, Sri Lankan
Tamils currently live in India with most having arrived during or around the
time of the Sri Lankan civil war. The people escaped violence and killings in
Sri Lanka and sought refuge in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and also in
some settlements in Kerala and Karnataka.
Tibet refugees who are also around a lakh
started arriving in India after the Dalai Lama escaped to India in 1959, the
Centre did not jot set up camps but also took special care to retain their
separate ethnic and cultural identity. The government’s move to grant
citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong community has come as a welcome signal.
The government announced that Chakma and Hajong refugees numbering nearly
100,000 and staying in the upper reaches of Arunachal Pradesh for around half a
century now will get Indian citizenship. Currently, India has
at least 400 settlements of Pakistani Hindu refugees. Additionally, India on
regular occasions has accepted pleas of refuge from persecuted religious
minorities from Pakistan. Most of the refugee settlements are located in
Gujarat and Rajasthan along the India-Pakistan border.4
India deals with refugees and asylum seekers and refugees on an ad hoc basis,
consulting a basic refugee policy and administrative laws like The Passport
(Entry of India) Act, 1920, The Passport Act 1967, The Registration of
Foreigners Act, 1939, The Foreigners Act, 1946, and the Foreigners Order, 1948.

 

1India, largely a country of immigrants Available at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/India-largely-a-country-of-immigrants/article15127444.ece

2 The lowdown on Assam’s NRC drive by Sandeep Phukan, Available at http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/the-lowdown-on-assams-nrc-drive/article22387841.ece

3 Who are the Rohingya?  by
Adrija Roychowdhury, Available
at http://indianexpress.com/article/research/who-are-the-rohingyas-4855585/

4 Here is how various refugee communities have fared in India  by Kanishka Singh, Available at http://indianexpress.com/article/india/rohingya-muslims-refugee-myanmar-india-bangladesh-4843379 /