Conflict Alerts # 19, 15 December 2019
The new citizenship amendment bill grants Indian citizenship to any non-Muslim minority, from three neighboring countries, (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan) who entered India before December 31, 2014. The bill grants citizenship to people belonging to six religious’ communities- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian, who fled persecution from Muslim majority countries. The bill categorically avoided Muslims.
Issues at large
Indian government passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on 13 December 2019. Critics of the bill said that the law is discriminatory to Muslims and is against the secular spirit of the constitution.
Aggrieved people took to the streets in protest against the controversial law. Sections of the population also protested because they believed that granting citizenship to erstwhile refugees/illegal migrants would put pressure on state resources and job opportunities.
Thousands of troops have been deployed, the internet has been shut down, around 21 people have been killed. The upcoming visit of Prime Minister Abe, from Japan, was canceled, due to the massive protests in Assam. U. N. Human Right watch has shown its concerns and has stated the Bill as, “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.
Firstly, since the bill denies citizenship based on religious affiliations, it is fundamentally discriminatory and against the basic structure of democratic India's constitution
Secondly, in Assam Citizenship Amendment Bill violates provisions of Assam accords, 1979. It will grant citizenship to many more who have migrated until 2014, and possibly alter the demography of regions. The bill has aroused fear among the indigenous community of becoming a minority in their own state. Fear has gripped people that culture, traditions, and language would be impacted.
Thirdly, states like Kerala and Punjab have already expressed their disapproval towards the bill. As people stage protests in different parts of the country, which may lead to conflict between the central and state governments.
Fourthly, the law may stoke Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India.
Beyond domestic politics, the Citizenship Amendment Bill might also have international implications. In essence, as the law is discriminatory towards Muslims, it may affect India's relationship with Islamic countries. A federal panel in the US is reviewing the case and is planning to impose sanctions on the Home Minister.
Revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, passing the citizenship amendment bill, are widely said to be part of the greater Hindutva agenda of the right-wing BJP led government in India. Sooner or later, the effects of domestic policies will be felt in the foreign policy of the country.
Sukanya Bali is a Research Associate with ISSSP. She can be contacted on email@example.com