China is an authoritarian state where everyone lives in constant fear of the government. Some groups more than others. These would be the people of Hong Kong (who know what democracy feels like), the people of Tibet (who are mostly Buddhist) and the Uighur people (who are mostly Muslim).
This week, the British government made a choice. They would extend a helping hand to the besieged Hong Kongers by offering them UK citizenship.
The terms offered are extremely favorable. The residents of Hong Kong would immediately be welcome to live and work in the UK. After a period of five years, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The British government explained its reasoning thus:
“This is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.“
As an Indian who has witnessed the absurdity of the recent anti-CAA protests, I am not sure I understand. A special bespoke set of arrangements made by a country to help a group of people towards whom they feel a historic commitment?
I’m sorry. I thought modern democratic countries are not allowed to do that. Why does Britain feel a commitment to the people Hong Kong but not to every group of persecuted people everywhere? For example, what about the Uzbek minority facing persecution in Kyrghystan? Why is the British govt being so anti-Uzbek? Is a wave of anti-Uzbek sentiment sweeping the UK?
Is the UK creating two classes of citizens? Has this new UK citizenship policy reduced British citizens of Uzbek descent into second class citizens in their own country? Now, that’s disturbing.
And what about the heavily persecuted, mostly Muslim, Uighur minority in China? Why no UK citizenship for them? That’s Islamophobia! Does anybody in the UK know about Faiz’s famous poem dehumanizing idol worshipers? Better sing that quickly so that dignity of all people can be restored.
Of course I am being sarcastic. Because I understand. The UK can do what it wants. We the brown people of India, especially Hindus, do not have a right to feel historic commitments and moral obligations to anyone. The global elite will decide for us.
So the UK can flaunt its colonial history and show off its generosity to its former subjects in Hong Kong. If we point out that we have a several thousand year old connection to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains across the Indian subcontinent, then we are Nazis.
For over a year now, we have been struggling to explain a simple principle of self-determination to the world. Like every other country, the people of India can choose who to give asylum in our country. This will be determined by historic and cultural connections as well as diplomatic and strategic interests of the Govt of India. While we can feel sympathy for persecuted people anywhere, we absolutely do have a sovereign right to give preference to those with a deep historic connection to the land of Bharat and its ancient culture.
The British today are extending a helping hand today because China has broken the commitments it made to the UK as well as the people of Hong Kong when the city state was returned to China in 1997. Could anybody argue that Pakistan has actually kept its commitments under the Nehru-Liaquat pact of 1950?
Now there will be apologists who will say the UK isn’t applying a religious test to their new citizenship measure towards Hong Kong. Well, of course not. Because the persecution that Hong Kong faces has nothing to do with religion. On the other hand, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minorities in Pakistan face persecution precisely because of their religion.
And they ask: What about Ahmadiya and Shia Muslims in Pakistan, for instance? Again, let us repeat the most fundamental point. Just because a law does not contain special provisions for every conceivable disadvantaged group does not make it discriminatory.
In fact, India’s own National Commission for minorities has a list of six specific religious groups that are considered minorities: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. Why only these six? Why not other religions such as Judaism or Confucianism or Taoism? But very few would argue that the Indian state is anti-Jewish because our government does not recognize them as a minority group. In fact, even Jains were not included as a religious minority until the last days of the UPA govt in early 2014. Do you remember large scale street protests condemning the UPA govt for being anti-Jain and/or anti-Jewish?
Because at the time, people had a common sense understanding of two basic principles:
(1) Making special arrangements for one group of disadvantaged people is not “discriminatory” simply because there aren’t measures for every other disadvantaged group of people everywhere else on the planet.
(2) A sovereign country can decide its asylum laws based on its history, culture, diplomatic and strategic interests.
The entire free world accepts these principles. Britain is just the latest example of this. Which is why nobody is protesting their common sense humanitarian decision to help the people of Hong Kong.
Even the anti-CAA crowd understands these principles. But like someone who is pretending to be asleep, we cannot wake them up. It is for the rest of us to understand that the anti-CAA protests (riots) had nothing to do with secularism or humanity. The protests (riots) were about a naked anti-Hindu agenda. That’s all there was to them. Period.