The potential beneficiaries of CAA – Numbers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

The article has been co-authored by Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar and Dikgaj

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) states that all nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh who are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists and who have arrived to India before 31 December, 2014, can apply to become citizen under it. If their application is approved and citizenship is accorded, all legal proceedings against the concerned individuals would stop.

A question that is repeatedly asked is why the refugees can not be given citizenship under the existing laws utilizing a case by case review. The answers are two-fold. First is purely logistical.  The number of such applicants may be far too large to be considered on a case by case basis. To see this, we first calculate the number of missing Hindus in Bangladesh, which is the difference of the total number of Hindus in Bangladesh had their population growth followed the growth rates of Hindus in populaces that exhibit growth rates similar to the Hindu Bengalis, and the actual number of Hindus in each decade. Using two different populaces as baselines, the number of missing Hindus turn out to be between 30 lakhs and 45 lakhs.  We believe the latter is more realistic, though the former is alarmingly high too. The reason why the Hindus have been disappearing from Bangladesh in such alarming numbers have been analyzed by academics and researchers [7], [8]. We next estimate the number of Hindu refugees who have arrived from Bangladesh to West Bengal and Assam since 1971. We find the numbers including their offsprings to be 49.13 lakhs and 7.96 lakhs respectively. Thus, the remainder which may be around 10 lakhs have been killed or converted to Islam. The numbers have been evaluated by multiple techniques in section A. We have similarly estimated the number of Hindus who have fled to India from Pakistan and Afghanistan in sections B and C.

The next question is how many of the refugees and their descendants who have fled to India since 1971 are not citizens yet. That would be impossible to state apriori, as many have not declared themselves as refugees, some have been regularized through informal channels, such as getting ration cards, voter cards through benevolence of various political parties in return of hefty bribes, political labor, etc. The number who have not been regularized is considerable as the Matuas, the largest Dalit community in Bengal have been agitating for citizenship status to many of their brethren from at least 2003 pp. 161-162, [10].

Second, more than the numbers who can benefit from this law, there is a symbolic significance of this law.  Innate to the law, is a civilizational recognition that the beneficiary group was persecuted for their religion where they lived and India as a nation welcomes them back once they have decided to seek refuge. This recognition may deliver a sense of vindication that the victims of a genocide feel once their persecution is recognized as one such. It is worthwhile to remember that the refugees could have averted some of the persecution they went through by converting to the majority religion in the countries under question, even though its well known that neo-converts are often treated with suspicion and subjected to continued humiliation as a form of coercive control.  Instead, they chose to rebuild their lives in a nation they considered their natural civilisational home, braving unfamiliar circumstances and an existential struggle of a refugee. The formal act acknowledges their pain and accords them the long-awaited dignity they deserve. They don’t deserve the indignity of seeking citizenship through mendicancy or illegality.

This recognition of persecuted Hindus on the ground of their being Hindus is also at the core of the opposition to the CAA. The opposition has been ideologically programmed to see the Hindus as oppressors and Muslims as victims, despite a mountain of evidence from ancient to recent history to the contrary. Besides the ideological section of the opposition suffers from acute Hinduphobia. They have rejected Hinduism in all but name, either from indoctrination or for incentives such as recognition among the intelligentsia or monetary lure. The refugees who braved persecution to practice Hinduism are by their very existence antithetical to their belief structure. Thus, the CAA has made our political choices simple – should we opt for a Hindu phobic polity or another group which might just deliver towards civilizational goals once in a blue moon. Hope the choice remains just that.

Section A: Bangladesh Scene
We now estimate the number of Hindus who have gone missing from Bangladesh since 1974 and 1981 [by two separate methods], and also estimate the total number who have found refuge in Assam and in Bengal. We shall explain the methodology below.

In our first experiment, we have utilised the base Hindu growth rate of Karnataka between 1974 and 1981, between 1981 and 1991, between 1991 and 2001, and between 2001 and 2011 to compute the number of missing Hindus in Bangladesh. Karnataka has had only moderate growth of Hindu population, and the TFRs for Bengal and Karnataka have been roughly similar, throughout the period (refer to the Table below).

Consequently, growth rates of Hindus in Karnataka is a reasonable estimate for the growth rate of Hindus in Bangladesh. Karnataka has not received much migration until recently, unlike West Bengal. All these render Karnataka an ideal candidate for providing a benchmark growth rate, with the cautionary note that even this estimate will be an underestimate as the normal TFR among the Hindus of Bangladesh should have been higher owing to their limited education and poverty (the Hindus of Bangladesh are largely from the backward castes). The TFRs for the two states have been taken from [9]


Bangladesh was created in December 1971, and its first census was taken in 1974. After that, its census dates have coincided with the dates in India, with the census being taken in the second year of the decade, i.e., 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011. In order to synchronise the growth rates, we have assumed that the growth rate of the decade was uniform, and have adjusted the populations in India to 1974, rather than using the census figures for 1971.  All the numbers of Hindus in Bangladesh are taken from the corresponding census of Bangladesh. All the numbers for the Hindus in India are taken from the corresponding census of India and [12].


All the numbers in the above table are given in thousands. In the second row is given the rate of growth for the period. In the table below, we estimate the number of Hindus that should have been there in Bangladesh, had they grown at the same rate as in Karnataka. Once more, all the numbers are in thousands.  The real number of Hindus, shown in row 2 constitutes the number of Hindus actually found in Bangladesh, while row 1 shows the number of Hindus expected in Bangladesh had they grown at the same rate as in Karnataka, and row three shows the number of Hindus missing from Bangladesh for each decade.

The total number of Hindus missing from Bangladesh in the 1974-1981 period is 7.96 lakhs, the total number of Hindus missing from Bangladesh in the 1981-1991 period is 15.58 lakhs, for the period between 1991-2001 is 16.33 lakhs and the number of Hindus missing in the 2001-2011 period is 5.55 lakhs. The entire number adds up to 45.43 lakhs, and if the descendants are included, to 65.85 lakhs. This is the number of Hindus that have vanished from Bangladesh in the period between 1974 and 2011. These Hindus have been killed, converted or made to flee from Bangladesh.

Now, we shall also derive a lower bound on the number of Hindus who have vanished from Bangladesh. Sibasagar division of Assam has had the fewest number of immigrants from Bangladesh, and indeed saw the exit of a significant number of Hindi and Bengali speaking people during the Asom agitation, when disturbed conditions and lack of employment opportunities sent the non indigenous Hindus fleeing the region. As such, its growth rate has been extremely anaemic for the 1974-2011 period. Assuming that the growth rate of Hindus in Bangladesh was at the same rates as in Sibasagar, let us derive the total number of Hindus that have gone missing from Bangladesh. Since there was no census in Assam, so while using the Sibasagar census, we have computed the growth rates between 1974 and 1991.


The growth rates of Sibasagar are given above. With these growth rates, the number of Hindus in Bangladesh should have been.


Again, all the numbers in the above table are in thousands. In short, if the Hindus had grown at the rates as they have in Sibasagar, the total number Hindus that have gone missing in the 1974-1991 period is 15.64 lakhs, in the 1991-2001 period is 13.85 lakhs and the total number missing in the 2001-2011 period is 25.3 thousand. This adds up to a total of 29.75 lakhs. This represents the lower bound on the total number of Hindus missing from Bangladesh.

Now, let us look at the number of Hindus that have appeared in West Bengal and Assam – the two principal states where the Hindus of Bangladesh have been seeking refuge.

Assuming that the Hindus have grown in both Bengal and Assam by the same rates in which they have grown in Sibasagar, the number of Hindus in Assam and Bengal should have been the following. All the numbers in the tables below are in the thousands. We have separately computed the number of additional Hindus that arrived in each decade [shown in the additional only row] and the total number of additional Hindus for the entire period [shown in the additional+descendants row].


In Assam, the total number of refugees and economic immigrants in the period between 1971 and 1991 comes to 5.58 lakhs. The small negative number in the period between 1991 and 2001 is most likely an artefact. Many who had left Upper Assam during the Asom Andolan returned. However, it shows that the number of refugees coming to Assam was trivially small. In the period between 2001 and 2011, the total number of additional Hindus is at 1.5 lakhs. This additional number is explained easily by the higher TFR among the Hindu tribals who constitute around 12% of the population of the state, compared to the lower TFR among the Asomiya population, especially the educated segment. All in all, the total number of refugees and immigrants in Assam and their descendants amounts to around 7.96 lakhs for the period between 1971 and 2011. This includes those who came to Assam during the Bangladesh war and settled there.

additional_hindus_bengalIn the table above, we compute the number of Hindus who have arrived in Bengal since 1971. All the numbers, as usual, are in thousands. The total number of additional Hindus between 1971 and 1991 amounts to a grand total of 31.96 lakhs, which is roughly five and a half times the number which arrived in Assam.  The number that arrived between 1991 and 2001 is 4.26 lakhs and the number that arrived between 2001 and 2011 is 4.29 lakhs. Note that not all of these may be refugees, but these numbers also understate the total new arrivals as Bengalis had begun migrating outside their state in large numbers since 1991. So, these numbers should represent the lower end of the spectrum.

Section B: Pakistan Scene

Nearly the entire Hindu-Sikh population of Pakistan migrated to India after 1947, and consequently, the Hindu-Sikh population has been nearly extinct in the country. It is only in Sindh province that the Hindus and Sikhs exist to some extent, and their proportion came down from 8.09% in 1951, to 6.69% in 1981.  However, even the Sindh population shows a lot of variance rising and falling rapidly in numbers across the decades. It is unclear if the fluctuations of the numbers of Hindus in various provinces are representative of the reporting or the actual numbers. Given the extreme bias against the Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, these numbers may just reflect the security of the people in admitting to their real religion. The number of Hindus migrating out of Pakistan has been suggested to be at 1000 families in 2013 [5]. In 2014, in the national assembly of Pakistan, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani mentioned that a total of 5000 Hindus are migrating to India every year [11]. A report suggested that at the time of partition, there were 428 temples functioning in Pakistan and 408 of them have been occupied illegally by Muslims [1]. In one of the most shocking events, one of the the most famous Shiva temples, the Pamwal Dass Shiv Mandir at Lyari was turned into a slaughterhouse for cows by the local Muslims, after compelling the Hindus to move out [2].  Conversions, both voluntary and compelled are also commonplace in Pakistan, with the Deen Mohammad Sheikh mission claiming that it has converted over a lakh Hindus since 1989 [4].

Assuming that the number given by the Pakistani National Assembly is correct, the total number of Hindus and Sikhs who have migrated per year is around 5000, then the total number of Hindus and Sikhs from 1971 would be approximately 2 lakh. Assuming that they have grown at the same rates as the Hindus of Gujarat, then, there should be between 3 and 4 lakh Hindus and Sikhs who have migrated from Pakistan.  The bulk of these Hindus would be found in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi, which is where the Pakistani migrants, who are mostly Sindhis, seem to have converged.

Section C: Afghanistan Scene

There was no census in Afghanistan till 1979, when the first census was conducted. The 1979 census does not list the number of Hindus and Sikhs separately, as far as the authors are aware. Consequently, we are unable to give a definitive number for the number of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan. The total number is estimated to be approx. 3000 Sikhs and 1000 Hindus in Afghanistan [3]. Most of the community has fled, according to the article during the civil war and the actions of the Taliban, which ordered the Hindus and Sikhs to wear distinctive clothes in the country [3]. In another report, an Afghan researcher named Ehsan Shayegan, speaking to Al-Jazeera, said that in the 1970s, there were 7 lakh Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan and now there are less than 7000 [6]. If this is true, then there should be several lakh Afghan Hindu and Sikh refugees in India and they would all benefit.  Most of these refugees would be found in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, since most of the Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan are Punjabis.

[1] Temples occupied.
[2] Temple turns into slaughterhouse., 2006.
[3] Sikhs struggle for recognition in the islamic republic.

[4] 100000 conversions and counting. 2012.
[5] Hindu refugees from Pakistan encounter indifference and suspicion in india., 2015.
[6] The decline of afghanistan’s hindu and sikh communities. 2017.
[7] Abul Barkat. Political economy of reforming agriculture-land-water bodies in Bangladesh. 2016.
[8] Richard Benkin. A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: The Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus. 2012.
[9] PN Mari Bhat. India’s changing dates with replacement fertility:a review of recent fertiity trends and fu-
ture prospect., 2003.
[10] Uday Chandra, Geir Heierstad, and Kenneth Bo Nielsen. The Politics of Caste in West Bengal. 2015.
[11] Irfan Haider. 5000 hindus migrating to india every year., 2014.
[12] AP Joshi, MD Srinivas, and JK Bajaj. Religious Demography of India. 2003.

The article was published on 29/12/2019.