The Raja of Mahmudabad, Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan who had remained in India when his father opted to go to Pakistan and who had earlier fought a long and protracted battle for his rights has. again challenged the Modi government’s move in the Supreme Court. The case has been posted for hearing in the third week of November. Earlier, while the Lok Sabha had oassed the much-criticised Bill, it had been stalled in the Rajya Sabha.
Richard Perle, once an advisor to Libyan Dictator, Gaddafi had said “Dictators must have enemies. They must have internal enemies to justify their secret police and external enemies to justify their military forces.” Sound familiar?
Raja of Mahmudabad’s property. (Express Photo: Vishal Srivastav)
From the day, the Sangh has come to play center-stage in our politics, creation of enemies has become our national hobby. Every morning, we see a new enemy- students, beef-eaters, people who don’t stand during the national anthem, the Kashmiri protesters, anyone is fair game. For everything else, we have our favourite enemy, Pakistan.
The partition gifted us this enmity, which was when we decided that whoever chose Pakistan over India was our enemy. But what about those who chose India over Pakistan? Well, the BJP wants us to call them ‘Enemy’ as well. How? Read on.
The Enemy Property Act, 1968 was enacted to take over the properties left behind in India, by those who migrated to Pakistan/ China during the partition and the 1962, 1965, 1971 conflicts. The office of the ‘Custodian for the enemy property of India’, was instituted under the Central Government to act as the Custodian of these properties. Remember the term ‘Custodian’ because that is the role this office was expected to play; not that of the Owner.
But contrary to what many in the current dispensation would have us believe, all Muslims did not run off to Pakistan. For instance, while the erstwhile Raja of Mahmudabad chose to go to Pakistan at the time of Partition, his son, Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan remained in India.
He had to then fight a 32-year long legal battle to claim the properties worth crores of rupees inherited from his father, which the Government had confiscated under the Enemy Property Act 1968.
In 2005, the Supreme Court restored this property to Amir Mohammad Khan by emphatically stating that the Enemy Property Act 1968 could not be said to apply to properties of Indian citizens: “The definition of enemy excludes citizens of India as an enemy. Under the circumstances, the respondent, who was born in India and his Indian citizenship not being in question cannot by any stretch of imagination be held to be enemy or enemy subject. Similarly, the property belonging to an Indian could not be termed an enemy property.”
With this judgement as a precedent, other citizens started filing cases to restore similar properties back to them. Sticky business indeed. But obviously, a much-needed one, because no citizen of India should be discriminated against, for the actions of their ancestors.
Citing administrative issues, the UPA government tabled the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010 in Parliament to stop all legal Indian heirs from going to court to reclaim properties that once belonged to those who left for Pakistan during Partition. But on the face of stiff opposition, it amended the Bill to permit Indian-born legal heirs to claim such properties.
And now, the BJP government has been trying to amend this Act by The Enemy Property Bill 2016. Since it has not been able to get the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha, it took the back-door route of an Ordinance which was re-promulgated four times by the President. So what does this Ordinance seek to amend in the Act, which is finding few takers in the Rajya Sabha?
1. While in the original Act, the term ‘Enemy subject’ did not include a citizen of India, this bill has extended this term to include ‘his legal heir and successor whether or not a citizen of India or the citizen of a country which is not an enemy…’. All the jargon apart, what it means is that a legal heir of a migrant to Pakistan, will be termed as an ‘Enemy’ even though he/she is a citizen of India. The same change has been made to ‘Enemy firm’. Do you want to risk a guess about which group of people will be affected the most and termed ‘Enemies’ by this Ordinance?
2. The property of these Indian citizens, inherited from the people who migrated, will be termed as ‘Enemy property’
3. Laws of succession will not apply to these ‘Enemies’ with relation to these ‘Enemy properties’ and no court of Law would be allowed to entertain any case regarding these properties
4. The ‘Enemy’ will not be permitted to sell the ‘Enemy property’ and any sale can be declared void by the Central Government, retrospectively
5. While in the original Act, a sale of enemy property by the Custodian was permitted only if it was in the interest of preserving the property, or to secure maintenance of the enemy or his family in India, now the Custodian can dispose of, by sale or otherwise, the ‘Enemy property’ vested with him without any condition.
Remember, these people the BJP is terming ‘Enemies’ are our own. These are the people who put faith in the secularism of India rather than the radicalism of Pakistan and stayed with us even when their relatives chose religion over country. Is this how we reward them, by calling them our Enemies?
The pain and trauma that people like Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan went through, to get back the assets which were rightfully theirs, will all be flushed down the drain as these will again be confiscated by the Government. And if these properties have been resold and businesses are being run on them, the ramifications will be manifold.
By the way, it’s not surprising why BJP is chasing after these assets. According to reports, Enemy properties in Mumbai under the jurisdiction of Custodian include Rs 310 crore worth fixed deposits, treasury bill and government stock, Rs 177.6 crore worth bank balance and Rs 37.54 lakh gold and silver jewelry as on December 31, 2015. It is believed that there are several thousand crores of rupees worth of ‘enemy properties’ spread across the country. We are talking big money here.
Will Congress and other Opposition parties be successful in stalling this obnoxious bill in the Rajya Sabha like they did the Land Acquisition Bill? And can the President stop promulgating this Ordinance, umpteen times. This is the first Ordinance which has been promulgated four times.
The argument that the Sangh puts forward, for this discriminatory piece of legislature is that Pakistan has already sold such Enemy properties of people who had migrated to India and so we should do the same. Has Pakistan become our ideal now?
An African proverb loosely translated means “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you”. Someone needs to put that up in front of the BJP headquarters.
(Views expressed here are the author’s own and jantakareporter.com doesn’t subscribe to them)