India’s parliament on Wednesday passed a contentious bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from some countries, as hundreds of troops were deployed in the northeast which has been hit by violent protests.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom termed the bill as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction”.
For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others this is part of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200+ million Muslims.
DESPARDES — Derek O’Brien, an opposition lawmaker in India’s upper house on Wednesday said the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) legislated into law bore an “eerie similarity” to Nazi laws against Jews in 1930s Germany.
“In 1935 there were citizenship laws to protect people with German blood … today we have a faulty bill that wants to define who true Indian citizens are,” he said.
Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries.
Also left out are other minorities fleeing political or religious persecution elsewhere in the region such as Tamils from Sri Lanka, Rohingya from Myanmar and Tibetans from China.
Many Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Modi stormed to power in 2014.
UAE-based award winning journalist Aijaz Zaka Syed said, “Can a leopard change its spots? Can the saffron clan led by the RSS and BJP ever give up its core philosophy and agenda that is founded on a pathological hatred of all things Muslim?”
“Citizenship Amendment Bill: No Country for Muslims,” he wrote.
Several cities perceived to have Islamic-sounding names have been renamed, while some school textbooks have been altered to downplay Muslims’ contributions to India.
In August, Modi’s administration rescinded the special status (autonomy) of Muslim-majority occupied Kashmir and split it into two.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move “not good, not sustainable”, while the curated visit in October of far-right European politicians to Kashmir backfired.
Commenting on the situation in the Himalayan valley, renowned Indian writer and novelist Arundhati Roy said, “The silence is the loudest sound in Kashmir”.
Brinkmanship by the RSS controlled BJP government is further creating chaos, and war drums are being beating. India should solve this issue but the present inferior mindset there does not bode well,” said Khaled Almaeena, a Middle East media icon and former editor-in-chief of the Arab News and Saudi Gazette.
Besides stoking concern among Muslims, the proposed changes to the citizens register have also led to demonstrations in the northeastern states where residents are unhappy about an influx of Hindus from neighboring Bangladesh who stand to gain citizenship under the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).
Modi’s government has said it aims at removing all “infiltrators” from the country by 2024.
Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand-man and home minister, has likened illegal immigrants to “termites”.
“The Indian government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of the fundamental right of equal access to citizenship,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Monday termed the bill as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction”.
The legislation was passed by majority in both the houses. It will be sent to the president to be signed into law, with his approval seen as a formality.
On passing of the controversial bill into law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!.”
May be not. “The dye has been cast…the trajectory India has taken for itself; the minorities within India will suffer (unfortunately) and the) region may see more destabalization,” a Pakistani defense analyst said.
Mr. Irshad Salim, Editor/Publisher of DesPardes and PKonweb dittoed his earlier statement — on being asked to comment. “Modi’s moves are a Titanic moving toward an iceberg,” he said.
Opponents of the legislation plan to challenge it in the Supreme Court, saying it violates the principles of equality and secularism enshrined in the constitution.