The lower legislative body of India’s Parliament has sparked a backlash from Muslims in the northeastern part of the country after passing a new citizenship bill. The bill seeks to update a 1955 Indian citizenship law in order to grant citizenship to a large number of illegal immigrants.
The protests were raised when the bill (which was previously submitted several years ago but was eventually dropped) specifically welcomed people of other religions except Muslims. The illegal immigrants in India are mainly refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan who fled those nations when Muslims targeted them with violence, threats of violence, and death threats. They are Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists. The bill, known as CAB for short, calls for giving citizenship to any such refugees who arrived in India prior to 2015.
The bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has spoken out in opposition to the bill since it excludes Muslims, some of whom are supposedly persecuted themselves–such as Rohingyas and Uighurs. In a released statement, USCIRF has said, “The CAB enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion. The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith.” USCIRF is now calling for US sanctions against Indian leaders who have supported the bill, such as Indian Home Minister Amit Shah.
Ironically, Shah is the president of the Hindu nationalist party known as the BJP that has increased attacks on Christians and Muslims in recent years. Backers of the bill deny that CAB seeks to deny anyone their human rights, but promotes human rights by expediting the citizenship process for refugees who are in minority groups to alleviate their difficulties and shore up their religious freedoms. They also point out that they are exercising their rights, as any nation does, “to enumerate and validate its citizenry and to exercise this prerogative through various policies.”
It remains to be seen how the upper house of Parliament will handle the bill this time since protests several years ago led to scrapping the idea. Given the fact that Muslims have a reputation throughout the world of unleashing violence to impose sharia on others even in recent news stories from the UK (London Bridge) and the US (Pensacola, Florida), it’s really understandable how the Indian government concluded that this measure is needed.
Source: Samuel Smith, USCIRF fears India creating ‘religious test’ for citizenship as protests against bill erupt, Christian Post, December 10, 2019.