The right to settle in any State

Recently, a migrant labourer from the Malda district of West Bengal, Afrajul Khan, was brutally hacked to death in Rajasthan. The real cause of the murder is still shrouded in mystery. Following this, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, has asked all migrant labourers from West Bengal working in other States to come back to West Bengal if they want to. She said: “Come back if you cannot work in an atmosphere of fear. We shall partake of a coarse meal together.”  What she wanted to convey is clear: if Bengali migrant labourers cannot work with dignity and security, their home State will always welcome them back. Her sentiment is laudable. But there are other implications of her statement.
The citizenship of India is non-divisible. It is Indian citizenship. Not the citizenship of each constituent State of the Union of India. Article 19(d) of the Constitution confers on every citizen “to move freely through the territory of India” and Article 19(e) confers the right “to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.” It is the bounden duty of the Union Government as well as each State Government to provide security to a citizen of India irrespective of the State he may hail from, irrespective of his linguistic, religious or ethnic identity. The Rajasthan Government, or for that matter any State Government, cannot shirk the Constitutional responsibility of protecting and providing security to every citizen living in that State.
There are tens of thousands of people, manual labourers and others, from States like Bihar, UP, Odisha and other States who have been living in West Bengal in perfect social harmony for generations. The West Bengal Government is duty-bound to protect them. If they have to return to their parent States because they feel insecure here, it would be a blot on West Bengal. This holds good for every State of India. The Chief Minister should have reminded the Rajasthan Government of their constitutional duty and responsibility of protecting those living in Rajasthan, rather than ask the Bengali labourers working there to return to West Bengal if they feel insecure. If the people of one State cannot earn their livelihood in another State, then the very concept of India being one nation and Indian citizenship being one and indivisible is challenged. The Chief Minister of West Bengal should have emphasized on this point rather than asked the migrant labourers from this State to come back home if they feel threatened.

Saturday, 16 December, 2017