Political Corner: India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill is a horrific case of Islamophobia

The law excludes Muslims from the list of persecuted groups eligible for Indian citizenship

Protests against the controversial bill have resulted in bans on public gatherings. Photo: PTI

By: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer

Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, the Hindu nationalist group Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has undergone a tremendous effort to institutionalise the persecution of Muslims in India. Further fulfilling this agenda, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed on December 11, 2019. The CAB revises part of the Indian Citizenship law, which previously prohibited all illegal migrants fleeing persecution from becoming Indian citizens. 

With the changes passed in the bill however, non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan will be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation. The bill specifically pertains to individuals of select religious minorities Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian. If they have lived in India for at least six years, they may now apply for Indian citizenship. This bill relies on stereotypes and religious discrimination as a precondition for citizenship. It is outrageous and should not be tolerated in any modern, democratic society.

This law is regarded by many to be unconstitutional, as secularism has always been considered to be a core tenet of the Indian Constitution. The government claims that the amendment will protect religious minorities, and, according to an address in parliament, that Muslims “have not been persecuted on the basis of religion.” This statement is grossly Islamophobic as it implies that Muslims are always the oppressors. Their claim also overlooks Muslim minorities, such as the Ahmadis from Pakistan and Rohingyas from Myanmar, who have historically been victims of discrimination on religious grounds.

BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda is clearly clashing with fundamental human rights. Modi’s India is increasingly being compared to Nazi Germany, which begs the question: have we really learned nothing from history? 

Subsequently, nationwide protests have erupted in India in response to this highly controversial law. Some protest signs were seen to compare Modi with Hitler, and a German exchange student was ordered to leave India after he joined the protest with a “we have been there” sign. Many unarmed protesters have faced police brutality and hundreds have been arrested. Consequently, the government has prohibited more than four people at a time from congregating in selected areas across the country, and suspended internet service in 73 districts. 

It is particularly alarming when any form of discrimination becomes legal. The Indian government is seeking to exclude select minorities through CAB, so that violence against them becomes justified in an incredibly crude way. In short, what we’re witnessing is the blatant disregard of secularism in the modern world.