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India begins implementing citizenship law that excludes Muslims

Photo: Biju Boro Agence France-Presse Activists set fire to copies of the Citizenship Amendment Act during a protest in Guwahati on March 11, 2024.

Sheikh Saaliq – Associated Press in New Delhi

6:39 p.m.

  • Asia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Monday announced rules to implement a 2019 citizenship law that excludes Muslims, weeks before the Hindu nationalist leader seeks a third term.

Citizenship law amendment provides fast-track path to naturalization for Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to Hindu-majority India by December 31, 2014. The law excludes Muslims, who constitute the majority in all three countries.

The amendment was approved by India's Parliament in 2019, but the government of Narendra Modi delayed its implementation after deadly protests erupted in the capital, New Delhi, and elsewhere. Dozens of people were killed during the days of clashes.

Nationwide protests in 2019 drew people of all faiths who said the law undermined India's foundations as a secular nation. Muslims were particularly concerned that the government could use the law, combined with a proposed National Register of Citizens, to marginalize them.

The National Register of Citizens is part of the Modi government's efforts to identify and weed out people it believes have entered India illegally. The registry has only been implemented in the northeastern state of Assam, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to roll out a similar citizenship verification program across the country. country.

Mr Modi’s government defended the 2019 amendment to the Citizenship Act as a humanitarian gesture. He argues that the amendment only aims to extend citizenship to religious minorities fleeing persecution and would not be used against Indian citizens.

“These rules will now allow minorities persecuted on religious grounds in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to acquire citizenship of our country,” Interior Minister Amit Shah wrote on X.

The main opposition Indian Congress party questioned the announcement, saying “the timing just before the elections is obviously designed to polarize the elections.”

Rights watchdog Amnesty India in a statement called the law “discriminatory” and said it “goes against the constitutional values ​​of equality and international human rights laws of the person “. He said the law “legitimizes discrimination based on religion” and is “exclusive in its structure and intent.”

India is home to 200 million Muslims, who constitute a significant minority group in a country of more than 1.4 billion people. They are scattered across almost all parts of India and were the target of a series of attacks that took place during Narendra Modi's first takeover in 2014.

Critics say Prime Minister Modi's blatant silence on anti-Muslim violence has emboldened some of his most extremist supporters and enabled more hate speech against Muslims.

Mr. Modi is increasingly blending religion and politics in a formula that has deeply resonated with India’s majority Hindu population. In January, he opened a Hindu temple on the site of a demolished mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state, honoring his party's Hindu nationalist commitment.

Most polls suggest Mr Modi will win a majority in the general election, which is expected to take place by May.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116