19 December 2019
By Saara Sacranie | Image: AFP
The Indian parliament has passed a new law that establishes religion as one of the criteria for nationality in India. This is in respect of persecuted minorities of neighbouring countries who have come to India before 2014; however the law rejects Muslim migrants outright.
If minorities can prove they are facing persecution in neighbouring countries, they are granted citizenship after six years of residency in India. However, it excludes Muslims that may be facing similar persecution.
Speaking to Salaamedia, Advocate Shafiq Rahman Muhajeer, an independent lawyer based in India, who has been giving legal advice since 1984 said that this bill actually changeds India’s constitution as it contradicts Article 14 meaning that the bill is actually illegal.
There are more than 1000 community leaders that have condemned the bill as it has been the Indian parliament’s duty to install laws that did not discriminate against any citizens in that country.
The India’s constitution written at the time of independence in 1947, states that all religions are welcome and Article 14 of the Constitution states that all citizens are equal regardless of faith, race, place of birth, caste, religion and language.
This new bill effectively nullifies Article 14 by marginalising the Muslim population in India and refusing them citizenship based on their religious beliefs, ultimately undermining India’s claim to being a secular state.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed that it is helping minorities in South Asia – Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan – who have been discriminated against by the Muslim population, by giving them citizenship.
Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is accused of turning India’s Muslim population into second-class citizens who increasingly face religious bigotry emanating from the policies of the BJP and its supporters
The development has caused uproar from both Muslims and people of other faiths alike. The increasing discrimination against Muslims is spreading fear amongst other minority groups as they too fear being marginalised because Modi seems intent upon creating a pure-Hindu state.
International opinions from United Nations officials have referred to the Citizenship Amendment Bill as “blatantly discriminatory” and a number of countries have threatened to boycott India.
Despite the anger against the bill, both nationally and internationally, the Indian High Court has decided to continue with the implementation of the law. Protests against the law have resulted srpouted across the country in major city centres.
One concerned Muslim protestor said “We don’t have any kind of fear of this government, police or anyone. We are prostrating in front of our God, Allah. We fear only Him. We don’t have any other authorities. We don’t fear them.”