The government of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of its nationalist program, offered a controversial bill in parliament that would prevent Muslim migrants from neighboring countries from receiving citizenship.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill has sparked protests around the country on 9 December. Demonstrators said the bill goes against the nation’s secular constitution.
The changes would allow citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians who illegally migrated to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It, however, wouldn’t allow citizenship for Muslims.
“When the country got independence, if it has not been divided on the basis of religion by the Congress party, then this bill would not have been required”. Home Minister Amit Shah said in defense of the bill.
This is the latest in a series of controversial moves of Modi’s government. On 5 August, India discarded nearly seven decades of autonomy in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Three weeks later, about 1.9 million people on the Assam state, mostly Muslims, faced the risk of losing their Indian citizenship as the government attempted to remove illegal migrants by launching a National Register of Citizens.
In November, Hindus won the Supreme Court case over a religious site disputed for centuries in the city of Ayodhya, where a temple had been promised by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Katharine Adeney, director of the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute, rejected the bill, saying: “What it will do is to contribute to a growing sense of insecurity for the Muslim populations across India”.
The legislation was passed in the lower house of parliament in January, but the upper house didn’t take it up. This will be the second attempt to pass the bill.