The Citizenship Amendment Bill opens a path to naturalization for persecuted Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, but excludes Muslims.
Muslims across India staged angry protests over new legislation that grants citizenship rights for refugees fleeing Islamist persecution in the neighboring countries.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, passed by the Lower House of the Indian parliament by 293 to 82 votes, opens the path to naturalization for the followers of six faiths, including Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, but excludes Muslims.
Muslim mobs took to streets in several Indian cities, setting fire to vehicles, throwing stones, and hurling home-made bombs at security forces called in to restore order, Indian newspapers report. Left-wing student groups joined the protesters. They blockaded campuses in India’s capital New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi backed the legislation adopted last Tuesday as a “landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!” he said. “This bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years.”
Since winning a two-thirds majority in the May 2019 General Election, Modi’s Hindu nationalist alliance has angered the country’s Muslim population with a series of measures. In August, India revoked the special status for the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, a move that could open the northern Indian state for Hindu immigration. Earlier this year, New Delhi excluded more than 2 million immigrants, predominately Muslim, from its citizenship enrollment drive in north-eastern India.
Reuters India reported as violent protests entered their 6th day on Tuesday:
Police fired shots in the air and volleys of tear gas to push back thousands of demonstrators in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday as protests raged against a new citizenship law that has angered the country’s Muslims.
The situation spiralled out of control after demonstrators threw stones at policemen who were holding them at a barricade, police officer Rajendra Prasad Meena said.
In another demonstration in West Bengal state, protesters opposing the new laws hurled a homemade bomb at policemen, injuring three of them. (…)
Despite days of violent demonstrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government dug in its heels on Tuesday.
“Both my government and I are firm like a rock that we will not budge or go back on the citizenship protests,” Home Minister Amit Shah told the Times Network.
In the clashes in Delhi’s Seelampur area, police fired shots in the air and lobbed more than 60 rounds of tear gas at protesters, some with their faces covered, who threw bricks, stones and bottles at police.
About 10 people, including policemen, had been brought in into the Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital with injuries, a hospital official said.
The mainstream media sided with the Indian Muslims rampaging on the streets and criticized New Delhi for “provoking” them.
The New York Times blamed Modi’s government for angering Muslims by adopting “provocative policies.” The newspaper declared: “As the government of India pushes increasingly provocative policies, it is using a tactic to stifle dissent that is more commonly associated with authoritarian regimes, not democracies.”
The newsweekly New Yorker accused India’s Hindu nationalist government of waging war on country’s Muslims. “The Prime Minister’s Hindu-nationalist government has cast two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies,” the New Yorker commented.
Qatar-funded Al Jazeera TV network called the legislation allowing citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians fleeing Islamist onslaught “anti-Muslim.” “The major criticism of the law has been that it prevents Muslims from seeking citizenship, something similar to US President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban under which Muslims from few countries were banned from seeking asylum,” the broadcaster added.
The sharpest criticism of them all came from Germany’s state-run broadcaster Deutsche Welle, claiming that “India’s move to exclude Muslims from seeking a fast track to citizenship is blatantly discriminatory.” The German broadcaster told India to adopt a refugee policy akin to that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s: “The new citizenship act shows us that India needs a refugee policy in line with international law, and not a law based on discrimination and dictated by an ideology that makes use of religion for political gains.”
While the “discriminatory” wordings of the new law trigger Indian Muslims, non-Muslims face forced conversions, deadly pogroms, and ethnic cleansing under the Islamic Sharia rule in neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Pakistan’s non-Muslim population has declined from 23 percent in 1947 to merely 3 percent today, a 2013 report published by the Hudson Institute showed. Meanwhile, India’s Muslim population grew from 35 million to 200 million in the same period.
It is laudable of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government for looking beyond its narrow ideological confines and extending citizenship rights to persecuted Christians and other faiths. Christians have borne the brunt of Islamist persecution in neighboring Pakistan, with their churches bombed, priests murdered, and innocent believers hurled before Sharia courts on false blasphemy charges. According to watchdog group Open Doors, hundreds of “Christian women and girls are abducted every year and often forced to marry Muslim men.” The Hindus and Sikhs minorities share the same fate in the neighboring Muslim majority counties. India’s Hindu majority needs to reach out to the Christian and other faiths to counter the surging tide of violent Islamism in the region and beyond.
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