NEW DELHI: The NDA government announced on Sunday that it has granted citizenship to nearly 4300 Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan in the one year that it has been in power. This is a significant increase when contrasted with the UPA government, that gave 1023 such people Indian citizenship within a span of four years.

According to BJP leaders, this rapid increase is in tandem with the Modi government’s aim of positioning India as a “natural home” for Hindus fleeing persecution anywhere in the world. The policy first came to light amidst the controversial decision to grant Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh citizenship. The move was initiated with the focus being on Assam -- where the issue of migrants from Bangladesh has led to violence and conflict -- but soon turned into a national issue with the Supreme Court, in July 2013, ruling that the problem of religious minorities coming from Bangladesh to India was not confined to Assam alone.

The problem with granting citizenship to only Hindu migrants is centred on it being a policy based on religion. The intricacies of the problem are evident with the example of Assam where on one hand, the government is moving to assimilate Hindu migrants from Bangladesh but on the other, advocating that all Muslim migrants from Bangladesh return home.

The policy of granting only Hindu migrants the right to Indian citizenship is similar then to Israel’s Law of Return that grants only Jews the right to Israeli citizenship.

Nevertheless, it is being pursued by the Modi government, under whose tenure nearly 19,000 refugees have been given long-term visas in Madhya Pradesh, around 11,000 in Rajasthan and 4,000 in Gujarat.

A few days ago, in an unrelated incident, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat postulated that the entire Indian sub continent is a Hindu nation. Speaking at a Sangh training camp in Mathura, Bhagwat said: “"Bharat ek Hindu rashtra hai. We shouldn't have any doubt about it. And we need to stick to this belief. We can change ourselves in other areas. But the belief that India is a Hindu nation cannot be discarded at any cost."

"Some people call themselves Hindus, some say they are Indian. There are some other people who call themselves Aryans and some say they don't believe in idol worship. This doesn't make any difference when it comes to accepting India as a Hindu rashtra."

Bhagwat added that Pakistan and Bangladesh are also Hindu nations. Those who are living in the Indian subcontinent belong to the Hindu nation. They may have different citizenships but their nationality is Hindu.” To elucidate this point further, he said, “The Arabs used to pronounce 'Sa' as 'Ha'. So they would call us Hindu because there was river Sindhu in our country. It was in the area where Pakistan was carved out in 1947. In 1971, Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan. This was the reason that the citizenship of residents of those areas changed. But they didn't leave their houses or their nation. This is why I say that their nationality remains the same.”

“The ancient name of this part of the land is Hindustan. Obviously whosoever is living here are Hindus," Bhagwat concluded (as quoted in India Today).