India’s Parliament approves controversial citizenship bill

0
321

By World
Desk

India’s
Parliament has approved a controversial citizenship bill that grants
citizenship to minorities facing persecution from three neighbouring countries
– but excludes Muslims, according to media reports.

A day after getting
passed by Lok Sabha, the  lower house,
the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed on Wednesday by  Rajya Sabha, the upper house, with 125 members
voting in its favour and 105 against it.

The bill
brings sweeping changes to India’s 64-year-old citizenship law by giving
citizenship to “persecuted” minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists,
Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Howver, the
legislation put forward by the Hindu nationalist ruling Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) undermines the country’s secular constitution as opposition parties,
minority groups, academics and a US federal panel calls it discriminatory
against Muslims.

Several
opposition parliamentarians said the bill would be challenged in court.

“The
passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill marks the victory of narrow-minded
and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism,” said Sonia Gandhi, leader of
the main opposition Congress party.

However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was a “landmark day for India” and the passage of the bill will “alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years”.

Meanwhile,Protests
against the bill have spread  in various
parts of India, including the ethnically diverse northeast, where people fear
that undocumented Hindu migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh could be granted
citizenship.

In Assam
state, thousands of people protested overnight across several towns and cities,
some joining processions carrying torches. Police said they used tear gas to
beat back protesters in at least two cities.

Faizan Mustafa, an expert on constitutional law and vice chancellor at NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad, said the bill goes against the country’s constitution.

“It is
arbitrary because it’s not based on reasonable classification, it doesn’t have
rational objective to achieve, it does not cover all the neighbours, it doesn’t
cover all the persecuted minorities,” Mustafa told Al-Jazeera.

“It is
constitutionally suspect and legally untenable but let’s see what the Supreme
Court does in this case,” Mustafa added.

Modi’s
government – re-elected in May this year and under pressure over a slowing
economy – said 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
came to power in 2014.

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 partial autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir,
India’s only Muslim-majority state, and split it into two union territories.

A citizens’
register in Assam finalised earlier this year left 1.9 million people, many of
them Muslims, facing possible statelessness, detention camps and even
deportation.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here