4 Things to Know About India’s New Citizenship Laws

On Dec. 11, 2019, India’s Parliament, a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The bill makes significant changes to India’s citizenship protocols. 

The Citizenship Amendment Bill grants immigrants of several different religions the ability to flee persecution and seek permanent refuge in India.

In protest against the blatant religious discrimination, riots are rising around the world.

The Goal

Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill as an answer to the excessive number of illegal immigrants flocking to, and living within, India. The bill attempts to answer this issue by recognizing that people are seeking refuge in India in an attempt to flee persecution in their home countries. 

Many people around the world have come to believe that the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill with underlying intentions.

Modi’s government shows consistent disapproval of the presence of Muslim immigrants. “Home Minister Amit Shah — Modi’s right-hand man,” Pradhan, writer for Bloomberg, states, “described undocumented migrants from neighboring Muslim-majority Bangladesh as ‘termites’.”

Who Benefits?

The bill specifically states that those of which are in the “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan,” are capable of achieving citizenship status under a couple of circumstances.

Those who fall under the conditions above arrive at the border of India and do not have acceptable passports and documentation, they may qualify for citizenship if they are fleeing persecution in their home country.

And those who fall under the conditions mentioned above may qualify for citizenship despite living in India as illegal immigrants to flee persecution in their home country. 

The bill is majorly beneficial for non-Muslims but excludes Muslim followers from reaching citizenship status. 

Modi’s government claims that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will, in no way, result in the discrimination of Muslims applying for citizenship. Meanwhile, the bill itself leaves minimal opportunity for refuge-seeking Muslims to reach that position at all.

The Issue

According to Perrigo from Time, the exclusion of Muslims leaves a population of nearly 200 million— already marginalized — Islamic followers highly vulnerable to deportation and imprisonment.

Indian politicians claim to exclude Muslims because they are not discriminated against as much in the selected countries, as the other mentioned religions.

Though not as prevalent as non-Muslim religions, there are cases of Muslim persecution throughout the listed countries. 

Indian Parliament built a massive detention camp spread out over six acres near Guwahati, India, in late 2019, costing upwards of $6.5 million. 

The construction of detention camps makes it clear that Modi’s government knows about the millions of Muslims that don’t qualify for the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The detention camp’s sole purpose is to house illegal immigrants who do not fit the Citizenship Amendment Bill’s criteria. 

The bill, while seen as discriminatory, is also seen as an effort to derail secular Indian traditions. 

The Impact

The passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill left a wake of protests and other unfortunate incidents.

In India, as well as the U.S., protests have formed to show disapproval for the blatant religious discrimination. Meanwhile, protests in support of the Citizenship Amendment Bill have arisen as well. And as a result, the two sides clash, sometimes resulting in violent incidents.

On Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, two incidents broke out, one between anti-bill supporters and the police, ultimately resulting in the anti-bill supporters pelting the police with stones. And the other was between anti and pro bill supporters resulting in both sides pelting each other with stones. 

These are only two of the many clashes that occurred as a result of the bill. As of Feb. 23, 2020, in totality, there were 32 protest-related deaths.

Modi’s government has yet to show any sign of submission with the new bill, and he shows his government’s force whenever an uprising occurs. In New Delhi — India’s Capital — police dispersed an anti-bill protest by using “tear gas to disperse [the] large crowds.” 


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