India is going through a peculiar situation. Days after President Ramnath Kovind signed off on the amended law that offers citizenship to the persecuted minorities of three neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – Muslims across the country are demanding the law should not be implemented. Reason? Foreign Muslims illegally entering India are not guaranteed automatic citizenship under the amended law.
When amendments to the citizenship law were passed by both Houses of Parliament last week, Opposition parties led by the Congress opposed it, saying citizenship cannot be granted on the basis of one’s religion. Curiously, the party had years ago argued for granting citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus feeling religious persecution at the hands of Muslim fundamentalists.
To its credit, the Narendra Modi-led government has stood firm on the issue. Both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have called the opposition’s bluff pointing out that the new law doesn’t affect Indian Muslims in any way. It is only about giving Indian citizenship to foreigners and not taking away citizenship from Indians.
The rationale for not offering citizenship to Muslims from Muslim-dominated countries is that they don’t face any kind of religious discrimination or persecution unlike minorities such as Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian.
Minorities in these Muslim-majority nations face a threat to life and property and are forced to flee to neighbouring India. It is to offer citizenship to such hapless people that the citizenship law has been amended.
However, Muslims in India are up in arms against claiming the amended law makes them feel insecure and unsafe. With the direct and indirect support of the Congress and other opposition parties, they have organized protests in areas where they are big in numbers – Jamia Nagar and Seelampur in Delhi, Lucknow and Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, Murshidabad and Howrah in West Bengal.
These protests have turned violent with protesters clashing with police with stones and sticks, setting on fire government property including trains and buses and beating up photojournalists who record the protests.
While the government had expected some protest stage-managed by the opposition parties, the alacrity with which the protesters have been engaging in arson and violence has set alarm bells ringing at the highest levels of the establishment.
Investigative agencies have already established the role of certain Opposition parties in fomenting violence. According to sources, they are also looking at the role of Pakistan-based jihadi groups in triggering unrest across the country.