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What Experts Have to Say About Liaquat-Nehru Pact that Found Resonance in Parliament During Citizenship Debate

On Monday, Shah said the Nehru-Liaquat pact failed to achieve its objectives in protecting minorities in Pakistan, and this flaw is now being remedied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dispensation through the Bill.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:December 12, 2019, 9:53 AM IST
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What Experts Have to Say About Liaquat-Nehru Pact that Found Resonance in Parliament During Citizenship Debate
File photo of Union Home Minister Amit Shah reaching Parliament on Monday ahead of the introducing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019.

New Delhi: How valid is the mention of the Liaquat-Nehru pact by Home Minister Amit Shah while introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019?

News18 spoke to a number of historians, academic and authors to delve deeper into the details of the pact and whether its mention was required to justify the Narendra Modi-led government’s move to provide citizenship based on religion.

On Monday, Shah said the Liaquat-Nehru pact failed to achieve its objectives in protecting minorities in Pakistan, and this flaw is now being remedied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dispensation through the Bill.

The pact was goes back to April 2, 1950, when the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru met in Delhi to discuss the problems of minority communities in their respective nations.

Six days later, on April 8, both leaders signed a pact on safety of minorities and communal harmony. The pact is known as the Liaquat-Nehru pact. It is “a bill of rights for minority communities” of both countries and is also known as the Delhi pact.

Here’s what academics have to say:

Irfan Habib, Marxist historian

In the pact, it was agreed that both countries would protect their minorities. For a long time, there were riots and ethnic cleansing and in those times, the Pakistan High Commission could visit the place of riot in India.

I suppose the same entitlement was extended to the Indian high commission in Pakistan. However, the pact has no connection with the CAB, 2019. What Shah is saying is that there are no Hindus and Sikhs left in Pakistan, whereas there are many Muslims in India, and that is how the pact has failed.

However, at that time Bengal was also a part of Pakistan, and there was a large Hindu population who remained in Bangladesh. This is a trickery — forgetting that Bengal was a part of Pakistan with a large Hindu minority. A bulk of Hindus remained in Bengal. It is not true that ‘all Hindus were expelled from Pakistan’. In fact, Pakistan then included East Bengal. Shah apparently has forgotten all of that.

The government is open to minorities, but Rohingyas from Myanmar, which is also our neighbour, are being excluded. It plans to give citizenship to minorities from Afghanistan, which is not even our neighbor (technically). Similarly, the Tamils in Sri Lanka are being kept out from the ambit of the legislation. Hence, even in this logic, communalism shines.

If you see through this Bill, as far as Muslims are concerned, it is not the Muslims from Pakistan, but the ones who have come from Bangladesh who are considered dangerous. In this context, to bring in the Liaquat formula is not an error, but a deliberate one.

It is worth pondering why the government is even speaking of Pakistan when there is hardly any Muslim migration from Pakistan to India. There is a fair amount of Bangladeshi migration into India — both Hindus and Muslims.

In this case and context, how does the Delhi pact come in? The CAB is a matter concerning Bangladesh and India. The number of people who have come in the last 10 years from Afghanistan is minimal. For such movement, why should one bring a law? This is because Bangladesh is being targeted.

Santosh Kumar, assistant professor of history, Delhi University

The way the Liaqat-Nehru Pact has been quoted in CAB shows how ‘wise’ men are twisting history. The pact was signed at the time when millions of people were dying in communal hatred. There were many players at that time, we cannot blame the Congress or Nehru alone for Partition. It happened in the face of extreme conditions of communal hatred.

In the aftermath, a pact between the two nations was needed to ensure communal harmony.

Shah is forgetting that most Muslims chose to live in India and all Muslims did not go to Pakistan. Nehru did not expel the Muslims, and it is this correction of history that is being done with CAB. However, the powerful never learns from history, it distorts the same. The idea behind CAB is to make India a majoritarian state.

Prafull Goradia, author of unpublished ‘Jinnah Helped Hindus’

There was panic among Pakistani Muslim leaders like Liaquat Ali Khan that Muslims were in danger in India. This at a time when they overlooked the fact that there were Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.

Khan and Nehru signed the pact to protect the minorities. Muslims lived in India and there was never any movement from here to Pakistan in fear for life.

The comparison made by Amit Shah is valid, because in Pakistan, minorities continue to face harassment even after so many years. But more than Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as North-West Frontier Province), the real harassment is happening in Sindh.

In Sindh, the Hindus were left behind in the 1940s and local Sindhis were not interested in harassing the Hindus.

Shah made the point to emphasise that Pakistan is harassing minorities, but Indians are not. The Nehru-Liaquat pact is not respected till this date. He is not wrong. Interestingly, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had opposed it. He had said we would like a fool as Pakistan won’t respect it.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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