India’s New Citizenship Act targets Muslim Minorities

If the main agenda of the Citizenship Act is to remove illegal immigrants in India, why is it discriminatory towards Muslim Minorities?

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the Indian government, had promised in a previous election to offer Indian citizenship to religious minorities from neighboring countries. Stated by the Citizenship Act, migrants who had entered India by 31 December 2014, had suffered “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their country of origin were made eligible for citizenship.

Muslim Minorities protesting against the New Citizenship Act. Source: Vox

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India on 11th December 2019. It amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing Indian citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014. Muslims were not given such eligibility. The act was the first instance of a religion being used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian law.

Muslims, civil society and public intellectuals continue to protest against an “unconstitutional” amendment. It is estimated that more than 1,000 members of India’s LGBTQ community and other rights groups have marched in the capital, New Delhi, to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected in May 2019 and enforcing NRC. Source: The Conservation

Muslim groups and activists fear Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government since they planned the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which is forcing people to prove their citizenship to consolidate their Hindu base to which the United Nations called “fundamentally discriminatory”. Opposition parties condemn this bill as “unconstitutional and unprecedented” because they have never seen religion became the basis of any law in the Indian constitution. Further, they fear that it will marginalize the 200 million Muslims living in India since it’s discriminatory and exclusionary.

This act has caused a divide in India where there are people who agree with the Citizenship Act and those who don’t agree. The majority of Indians are against this Act since they label it as “discriminatory” and sadly this is the truth since Muslims are the only religious group that isn’t guaranteed Indian citizenship.

But it seems the only people who are for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political party. Modi and his government are for CAA and especially for NRS are because he was the one that created this “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional” act. The reason that many people support the CAA and NRC is because of a similar argument seen in the US where minorities are taking away jobs from the locals. They see the CAA and NRC as impactful acts that would remove illegal immigrants in India yet the act is not just removing illegal immigrants but illegal MUSLIM immigrants.

A change.org petition titled “We support government decision #CAA & NRC”, to show support of the CAA and NRC by Indian citizens.
Source: change.org

It is a discriminatory act that is attacking Muslim Minorities in India. That is why the majority of Indians are fighting against the CAA and NRC because it discriminates against a single religious group in India rather than reducing the number of illegal immigrants.

Even an anonymous Indian SAS Student, who visits India every year, says that they were more frightful during their last visit to India in December because they were afraid “a violent riot or protest would break out in the street.” They stay in their grandparents’ house that is located in the city area of New Delhi which is where most riots occur since it is near ground zero of the CAA and NRC, the parliament house. During their visit, there were many times they were “forced to stay at home due to the riots becoming violent.”

They said, “it was the most scared that I have ever been in my own house because there was always a possibility that the riot would break apart and rioters would start attacking homes.” The anonymous student added that they were against the CAA and NRC because they are “discriminatory acts that single out a religious group [Muslims] in India and if the main agenda of these acts are to remove illegal immigrants why do they have to single out Muslim Minorities?”.

Students hold signs during a protest rally against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Guwahati.
Source: Financial Express

Certainly, this is a scary time for many Indians. The possibility of Muslims being removed from India isn’t certain but there is a chance. The amount of violent riots has caused government officials to place curfews on certain Indian states. For example, my grandmother, who is currently living with my family in Singapore, is from a city in India called Kolkata which is the capital of India’s West Bengal state. She lives in a rural part of Kolkata where there is a Muslim community present. And with the recent news of the CAA and NRC, it has sparked large amounts of riots and even violent riots in the area she lives in. The riots had become such a problem that government officials in Kolkata placed a curfew that no one is allowed to roam the streets between 10 pm to 6 am. It was a scary time for my 60-year-old grandmother who lives alone in an area where violent riots break out due to the CAA and NRC acts. As the riots became worse and worse, my family flew her to Singapore while the chaos dims down.

In my personal opinion, I agree with the majority of Indians that the CAA and NRC acts shouldn’t be implemented into Indian law. In our recent eras, where we see the US removing illegal immigrants from their country, I am starting to see this trend replicate itself in India. Yet, they are removing illegal Muslim minorities and not just illegal minorities.

The argument that CAA and NRC would help reduce the number of illegal immigrants in India is a flawed one. Though Narendra Modi and his party believe that to be the case, in reality it is targeting Muslim Minorities which is clearly discriminatory. For now, the riots and protests in India are to push the government from not passing these two acts since the uproar from the citizens should send the message that the CAA and NRC are acts are discriminatory and unconstitutional.

As the riots continue on, I hope the Indian government sees the true reality of the CAA act.
Source: Business Today

Author: Mitali Singh

Mitali Singh is currently a senior at Singapore American School and this is her second year reporting for The Eye. Living all 17 years of her life in Singapore, she tries not to spend her time debating whether to binge-watch TV shows or watching past vine compilations (rip vine). Rather she would spend her time towards her passion to write and tell stories of others, which she is excited to continue this year by producing more sophisticated content. So, if you have any interesting stories from your life or even vines you would like to share, she can be contacted at singh772234@sas.edu.sg.

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