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Opening Old Wounds…

At a time when protests (more than a few of them violent) have broken out across India against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 or CAA, the Narendra Modi Government in New Delhi has declassified 1.2 million files of refugees during the Partition of the Subcontinent. The CAA, passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019, seeks to amend the definition of Illegal Immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who have lived in India without documentation. As per the Act, these people would be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. However, Muslims from those countries would not be eligible for given such eligibility. So far, 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalisation…
The Indian Home Ministry has claimed that the declassified files contain almost all the information about the refugee issues during India’s Independence. In a statement, the Ministry said that the National Archive would be filtering and cataloging those files, before making them public. The move will help people get detailed information about refugees, their resettlement and compensations from 1947 to 1950. The details of compensations, received by refugee families who had come to India from Pakistan after the Partition, would be found in these 1.2 million files. The Government believes that the information would be crucial in the context of CAA!

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In a rare first, the Government of India has declassified such a huge number of secret files. According to sources close to the Home Ministry, it has become increasingly difficult for the National Archive to preserve those files. After filtering the files, the National Archive would be keeping some of them, and the ones not needed would be rendered into trash. And then, the cataloging work would begin with the important files. Sources also said that it might take more than 15 years to complete the task! Moreover, a separate building is required to keep the files related to the Partition of India!
The files contain various administrative decisions, such as fixing the compensation and places of resettlement, made by the Government after the Partition. Most of the files contain applications by the refugee families for compensations, and documentations of the compensations. A senior Home Ministry official has revealed that majority of the refugees came the Pakistani Province of Punjab and settled in the Indian Provinces of Punjab, Haryana, and New Delhi. Comparatively, lesser number of refugees arrived in India from erstwhile East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh). The Indian Police and Intelligence Departments, too, have some files, containing the details of refugees who had arrived from Bangladesh.

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Meanwhile, some Sociologists are of the opinion that it is not a wise decision to reopen old wounds. They believe that such a move would only make it difficult for the people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to forget the pain of Partition and the ensuing bloodbath…

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