Dual citizenship challenges expression of national loyalty
It's understood if you have two families and hold two jobs, but not if you express two beliefs in one conversation. Split personality applies to people who see it to their convenience to carry two passports, because dual citizenship is loyalty equivalent of that pernicious phenomenon in psychology. Like a hesitant mind wavers between two convictions, loyalty of a dual citizen wavers between two countries.
It's a pity when that loyalty goes back and forth, as people leave their motherland and come back after exhausting options in their adopted countries. Many come back for the simple reason that old age is more comfortable amongst friends and families. The accomplished ones return out of gratitude to give something back to their countries of birth. Then there are those who have the prospector's nose for gold. They return not so much for the love of their "motherland" but for the hope to find fresh opportunities.
Dual citizenship is thus not an entirely innocent interest. And more than not, it's also an elitist thing. The whole concept swirls around a particular group of people who would like to have options so that they can keep the best of both worlds open. It's an affront to the preponderant majority of people who live and die in their own countries. The dual citizens are effectively two timers, people who use two countries for the pleasure of their selfish living.
If it's dishonest to say two things in one breath, how is it any better to live one life in two countries? I am not talking about diplomats, aid workers, multinational executives and businessmen who hop countries under the compulsions of career prospects and business dealings. Students living in other countries to acquire knowledge or people who go abroad to receive trainings don't come under this culpable category either. Neither do all those wage earners, who work abroad and remit foreign exchanges to support their families.
But what about those, who once renounced the citizenship of their motherland, and took up permanent residency or citizenship in another country? For example, immigrants must take an oath to become naturalised US citizens that says, in part, "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen." How can we trust anybody who once abandoned this country for better life elsewhere if that person now wishes to come back because the grass looks greener on this side?
Thus dual citizenship challenges the notion that citizenship is an expression of national loyalty. India has separated citizenship from nationality. It denies the idea of dual citizenship and Section 9(1) of the Citizenship Act 1955 provides that any citizen of India, who, by naturalisation or registration acquires the citizenship of another country, shall cease to be an Indian citizen. Any person of Indian origin, who has taken up citizenship abroad, can take up benefits of the Overseas Citizens of India scheme. The scheme gives that person the same travel and residence privileges like other Indians, but he or she isn't allowed to vote and take up jobs in the government sector.
The US sanction of dual citizenship has its conditions. Its law states that a US national, whether by birth or naturalisation, shall lose his nationality by voting in a political election in a foreign country. One exception so far has been made for a US citizen who had voted in an election in Israel.
Bangladesh has also introduced dual citizenship for persons of Bangladeshi origin who are living in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and European countries as citizens. As recently as February 1 this year, the Cabinet meeting cleared a proposal for a new law to expand the scope of dual citizenship. The cabinet secretary confirmed that the draft law says any Bangladeshi who pledges allegiance to a foreign state 'directly or indirectly' will lose their citizenship.
In reality, Bangladeshis owing allegiance to foreign countries have allegedly headed government, sat in parliament, enjoyed cabinet positions, adorned the highest court and worked in many other key government posts in this country. And, frankly speaking, not one of them could prove so far that they have added value to our national life. Instead, they exploited our sentiments to their own advantage and some of these snowbirds went back where they came from.
Thus the idea of dual citizenship is highly biased. It brings more privilege to the privileged, its purpose going against the hopes and dreams of common people. The martyrs died for this country, their blood, sweat and tears making its soil fertile with pride. That pride is badly hurt when the deserters of this country are free to return as if they had never left.
The writer is editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.