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India's Citizenship Law CAA became a reality four years after the bill was passed


The Indian parliament has passed a bill that would grant citizenship to immigrants from three neighbouring countries, but only if the immigrants are not Muslims.

Under the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), religious minorities including Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan will be granted Indian citizenship.

The bill, according to opposition parties, is unconstitutional because it would further marginalise India's 200 million-strong Muslim community and base citizenship on a person's religion.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the government, claims that the bill aims to defend religious minorities who have been persecuted in their native countries.

It was approved by the Rajya Sabha, India's upper house of parliament, where the BJP does not have a clear majority, with 125 votes in favour and 105 against.

The previous day, members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament presided over by the Bharatiya Janata Party the political party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved bill 311-80.

The President will now receive the bill to sign into law.

“I think it is, without exaggeration, probably the most dangerous piece of legislation that we've had because it amounts to truly destroying the very character of the Indian state and the constitution,” Indian human rights activist and author Harsh Mander told CNN.

According to Mander, the secular values upon which the Indian constitution is built are inherent.

The heart of the concept was the idea that your religious identity would not matter to your sense of belonging, and this idea is being challenged. It's really concerning," he remarked.

Modi praised the bill's passage. "It's a historic day for India and the compassion and fraternity that define our country!" he wrote. "Many people who endured years of persecution will experience less suffering due to this bill."

Protests and widespread opposition have been sparked by the bill's passage, particularly in the northeastern states.

Many indigenous groups there are afraid that granting citizenship to a large number of immigrants—many of whom crossed Bangladesh’s porous border after the region gained independence in 1971—will alter the distinctive ethnic makeup of the area and the way of life they lead, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Hindu nationalism in action

The bill's opponents claim it is just another instance of how Modi and the BJP party have pushed Hindu nationalism on the 1.3 billion-person nation of secular India at the expense of the Muslim community.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has its roots in India's right-wing Hindu nationalist movement. Some of its followers view as a Hindu Rashtra (nation).

The majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir lost its autonomy in August when the Indian government took away its autonomy, giving New Delhi more authority over the affairs of the area. In the same month, critics of the controversial new National Register of Citizens worried it would be used as an excuse to discriminate against Muslims in the state of Assam, India, by excluding nearly two million people.

Additionally, the Supreme Court of India granted Hindus permission to erect a temple last month on a contentious centuries-old holy site that is significant to both Muslims and Hindus. Muslims perceived the Ayodhya ruling as a setback, particularly in light of their growing self-perception as second-class citizens.

Amit Shah, India's Home Minister, referred to Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers from Bangladesh as "termites" in 2018 and vowed to eradicate them from the country.

According to the government, the purpose of the bill is to grant citizenship to religious minorities who fled to India to escape persecution.

The bill "will allow India to open its doors to minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who are facing religious persecution," according to Shah.

Shah remarked, "It is well known that those minorities who chose to live in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan had to live in constant fear of extinction." "The Modi government's amended legislation will enable India to provide them with dignity and a chance to start over in their lives."

However, detractors argue that India's assertions that the citizenship law seeks to safeguard religious minorities are "ringing hollow" since it ignores Muslim minorities who are persecuted in nearby nations, such as the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, the Ahmadiyya from Pakistan, and the Rohingya from Myanmar.

HRW's South Asia director, Meenakshi Ganguly, said, “The Indian government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship,” Ganguly said. “The government should demonstrate its expressed commitment to protecting refugees by passing a law that protects them irrespective of their religion.”

Muslims “will not benefit from this amendment because they have not been persecuted based on religion," Shah said in a Tuesday speech to the parliament.

In his Wednesday speech to the Rajya Sabha, Amit Shah continued, asking, "Who are you worried about? Should we grant citizenship to Muslims who are arriving from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan? Do you want us to grant citizenship to every Muslim who comes from anywhere in the world? This is not how the nation can run."

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