(Image source from: www.indiatoday.in)
While India is referred to as the biggest democracy in the world and one of the most secular countries, a new bill that was passed recently seems to question that status. In the sights of recent events, a new bill has been passed by the Indian parliament citing that the government will provide with Indian citizenship to the immigrants from three of the neighbouring countries, but not if they are Muslims.
Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), as it has been named, cites that it will fast track the process of granting citizenships to immigrants from all religions except Muslims. The three neighbouring countries that India would accept immigrants from include Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Some of the opposition parties have spoke out against it stating that this specific law is very unconstitutional as the same discriminates on the basis of a person’s religion which is not something that the Indian constitution stands for. The same is expected to further marginalize the 200 million Muslim community in the country.
The Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) clarified stating that the main objective with the bill is to protect the “religious minorities” who have fled their home countries.
The bill was passed both by the lower and the upper house of the parliament and has been designated as the 311-80 bill which is now going to be sent to the President to be signed into a law.
Harsh Mander, an Indian human rights activist and author expressed in a statement issued to CNN stating, “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.”
Following passing of the bill, PM Narendra Modi took to twitter to show his elated joy on the same tweeting out, “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."
Addressing the bill, Sonia Gandhi from the primary opposition of the Congress Party stated saying, “Today marks a dark day in the constitutional history of India. The passage of the citizenship amendment bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism.”
Protests from the common people from the remote sites in the north-east have also sparked through in response to the bill. According to the protestors, the migrants who are going to illegally enter the country will do so from the borders of north-east, thus disrupting the cultural and political power of the indigenous tribes that reside there.
To showcase further protests, several of them even burnt tyres and blocked the main roads and the railway lines. Police forces there have also charged upon the protestors with rubber bullets, teargas and even batons to bring down the ferocity of the protestors in Dibrugarh, Assam.
The state police official of Assam, Mukesh Aggarwal also had to announce a curfew in Guwahati to ensure that there aren’t further signs of distress from the protestors.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom also came forward criticizing the bill stating that it goes against what India’s constitution and secularism stands for. The external affairs spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar clarified stating that the statement made by the US commission is inaccurate and unwarranted.
In a further statement made by Kumar, he stated saying, “The bill provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities already in India from certain contiguous countries. It seeks to address their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights. Such an initiative should be welcomed not criticised by those who are genuinely committed to religious freedom.
This Indian citizenship bill has sparked mixed signs and reactions among people across the country.
By Somapika Dutta