In the state of Assam, in northeastern India, where a huge number of Indian Muslims have lived for generations without citizenship, thousands have joined in the protests. The Indian army has reportedly been deployed to the region.
India’s Parliament approves controversial citizenship bill that excludes Muslims
India’s Parliament has voted in favor of a controversial citizenship bill that will grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – except this bill will exclude all Muslims who are currently living in India. Dubbed the ‘anti-Muslim’ bill, this new bill will specifically only grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who have either fled to or moved to India. All Muslims who fall under this same category will not be granted citizenship.
This new legislation by Modi’s leading Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been labelled by many critics as yet another example of the growing Hindu-nationalist policies put in place by the BJP, in where many Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, are under growing threat.
Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party, stated:
The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”
Despite criticism from both opposition party members and human rights groups, Modi has celebrated this decision by calling it “a landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood”:
A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!
This Bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 11, 2019
Numerous protests have also erupted across India, with many upset and in shock that a citizenship bill like this would so blatantly exclude an enormous number of Indian Muslims who will not be granted citizenship. In the state of Assam, in northeastern India, where a huge number of Indian Muslims have lived for generations without citizenship, thousands have joined in the protests. The Indian army has reportedly been deployed to the region, with police using teargas to contain the situation.
Faizan Mustafa, a constitutional law expert and vice chancellor at NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad, spoke to Al Jazeera on the deteriorating situation that a bill like this could cause in India:
It is arbitrary because it’s not based on reasonable classification, it doesn’t have rational objective to achieve, it does not cover all the neighbours, it doesn’t cover all the persecuted minorities. It is constitutionally suspect and legally untenable.”
In a country where Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP government is forcing many Indian Muslims to feel like second-class citizens, a bill like this is even more worrying. The situation in Kashmir, where the Muslim-majority region was stripped of its previous autonomous powers, the citizen’s register in the state of Assam that left 1.9 million mostly Muslims stateless, and now this controversial citizenship bill all point towards the growing trend of dangerous nationalism in a country that prides itself in multi-culturalism and religious diversity.