Muslim protesters in India’s northern regions clashed with police, as the contentious bill passed the upper house of parliament. Muslims will consequently be excluded from the fast-track citizenship laws.
India’s government cleared the final hurdle to enact its citizenship law on Wednesday, after the upper house of parliament approved it. The controversial legislation will fast-track citizenship claims for immigrants from three neighboring Muslim-majority countries.
The legislation was approved 125-105 by the upper house, after the lower house voted in support on Tuesday.
Critics of the bill have said it consequently undermines the country’s secular constitution. It also discriminates against Muslims; Modi’s Hindu nationalist government argues that the law is a provision for non-Muslims fleeing persecution in their previous homes.
“A landmark day for India and our nation’s ethos of compassion and brotherhood!” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “This Bill will consequently alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years,” he added.
Muslims fear discrimination
Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015 will all be eligible for fast-track citizenship.
Modi’s government has dismissed the criticism. Saying Muslims from these three countries are excluded from the bill because they do not face discrimination.
Home Minister Amit Shah defended the bill, saying that “for India’s Muslims, there is nothing to worry about, nothing to debate.”
“They are citizens, and will remain citizens”
Protests against the law turned violent on Wednesday in India’s ethnically diverse northeastern region.
The army deployed troops in Tripura state and put reinforcements on standby in neighboring Assam, as police faced off with thousands of protesters, using water cannons and tear gas.
Students at Aligarh Muslim University took part in a hunger strike to protest the bill.
“The government does not know what it has unleashed. These protests will consequently continue,” Akhil Gogoi, a human rights activist in Assam, told DW.
Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Modi came to power. Saying he began enacting policies to match his party’s Hindu nationalist platform.
Modi’s government is creating legal grounds to strip millions of Muslims of fundamental rights Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
Consequently this bill is discriminatory and divisive by design. It is not about protecting persecuted refugees. The only motive is telling Muslims that they are second class citizens in India, HRW reported.