By Mohd. Naushad Khan

At a time when India has opened its arm under the provision of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), which aims to give citizenship to migrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, it is a matter of serious concern as to why Indians are renouncing their citizenship in big numbers to settle down abroad.

Surprisingly, more than 9 lakh people have renounced their Indian citizenship since 2014. More than 6 lakh Indians have abdicated their citizenship in the last five years. Of the total left, 40 per cent have taken the citizenship of the United States, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. Researchers can find out in due course of time as to why these people have given up Indian citizenship. Is it because of lack of peaceful environment, hate-filled atmosphere, and economic instability, threat to democracy and Constitution or because of unhygienic conditions or pollution? Or have they left for simple better living? But for some, there could be other reasons as well. Indians renouncing their citizenship in big numbers is a wake-up call for India.   

Advocate Nasir Aziz, president SAMLA (South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association) said, “Indians renouncing Indian Citizenship in hordes are a telling commentary upon the so-called New India propounded by the so-called saviours of the Nation. Howsoever strongly the Modi government may try to convince the people that they are shaping the New India of their dreams, the very mention of the news of Citizens renouncing Indian Citizenship spills the beans. Why would so many Indians forgo their right to Indian Citizenship which was so precious to them, is a question that persistently requires an answer.

He added, “It is one thing to leave for another country or even relocate to another one but renouncing the citizenship in the process speaks volumes of the utter disgust which citizens renouncing the citizenship feel towards the current state of affairs the country finds itself in. People with some intelligent mind (other than the Bhakts who have put a lid over their intelligence) have realised that India of their dreams is fast turning into a nightmare, unsure (may be rather sure) of what future holds for them.” 

“The government, unmindful of the long-term consequences, is merrily serving the communal cocktail of hatred and religious bigotry to the people to completely polarise the polity for political gains. And that’s a sure shot formula for disaster and catastrophe. Those leaving are well established and entrenched in Indian society, their decision to relocate to another country of their choice and renounce the Indian citizenship is a tell-tale sign that the country under the present regime is doomed. Let’s pray the trend is arrested but that will happen when there is change in the government for good,” said the SAMLA president.

On Indians renouncing citizenship, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind issued a statement during media briefing on August 6. “Is the data not a reflection that even after 75 years since we gained our independence from the British, we have been unable to build a country that is strong and stable enough for Indians to return and settle back after their professional or business stints abroad? The increased number of Indians becoming citizens of other countries since 2014 also shows the lack of confidence in them the future of their children and the direction of the nation in terms of securing basic rights for all its citizens and upholding certain principles for governing the country.”

According to John Dayal, a noted social and human rights activist, “There may be close to two crore people of Indian origin living in the West, and a few places in the East such as Singapore and Hong Kong. And as labour in the Middle East, I have not come across any official data, but perhaps as many as half of them are no longer Indian citizens while the others retain their Indian passport even as they continue to stay abroad for most if not their entire life. The shortest stay abroad may be of labour in the Mid-East who returns home in an average of about five years. Only a very few remain in places like Dubai as businessmen. Many would prefer to go to the west from there if they can.”

He added, “From what I have read, including some research studies, and people I have met over the past four decades in my own travels in East and West, I would say the parent generation retains a close bond with the mother country, but by the third generation, India is just a country they may visit as a tourist, no more and no less. All those born in the UK and the US almost automatically become citizens of those countries and have no inclination to ever seek Indian citizenship.”

“It was British politicians who first asked Indians to make a choice – to be British, so to speak. The Cricket Test was the phrase coined by racists. But it is recent generations that seem to make a fetish out of religious nationalism [Indian] even if they have no intentions of coming to India to settle. Whether they were Gujarati business persons expelled by Uganda under Idi Amin who mostly went to the UK, while many others travelled to the US, or Sikhs who migrated out of Punjab in the last five or more decades, the reasons were economic,” he said.

“As such, they had no qualm about taking up a new citizenship and swearing a new loyalty.  The new Karam Bhoomi was now the centre of their universe even if they spoke an Indian language at home, wore a sari, and had vegetarian food. I have no objection to any of this. After all, his nationality and his religion are the two things any human being can change of his own volition. Other identities, including race, skin colour and relationships are his, or hers, by birth. My objection is to those who assume a different nationality to avoid Indian law or as a convenience. This includes all the economic offenders. The worst are the sort of hypocritical religious nationalists who have American passports in their pockets and finance hate speech in India. According to me, they are criminals,” Dayal argued.

Dr Maskoor Ahmad Usmani, Congress leader and former President, AMU Students’ Union said, “People giving up India’s citizenship must be a matter for the government to ponder upon issues that it is not able to tackle in the recent years. From the massive rise in unemployment, crime and injustice has led many rich Indians to get a new citizenship of other countries. The downfall of the economy with no further scope of its growth, many rich Indians are apprehending losses in future investments. The quality of education is also one among many factors which is pushing Indian students to go abroad in good numbers, while many don’t return after their degree and look for employment there itself. The rise in Indians settling abroad manifests government’s failure in curbing India’s internal crisis.”

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