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Editorial: Indian Muslims under BJP

Delhi’s move to implement the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act highlights the country’s religious divisions under P.M. Modi

by Editorial

File photo. Tolga Akmen—AFP

Earlier this week, India’s BJP-led government announced rules to implement the “anti-Muslim” Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, a controversial law granting Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Muslim-majority neighboring countries. Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who migrated to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before Dec. 31, 2014, can avail the legislation, which has been slammed as “anti-Muslim” by rights groups. This had prompted nationwide protests in 2019, with violence in New Delhi killing numerous people—mostly Muslims—and injuring hundreds more.

According to the Reuters news agency, the Modi government has defended the implementation move by declaring the Citizenship Amendment Act an integral part of BJP’s 2019 election manifesto. “This will pave the way for the persecuted to find citizenship in India,” said a government representative. Muslims in India, however, have expressed reservations noting the law’s implementation, coupled with a proposed National Register of Citizens, could discriminate against India’s 200 million-strong Muslim community, even allowing the government to remove the citizenship of undocumented Muslims in some border states. The government insists the law is only aimed at granting citizenship, not taking it away from anyone.

Despite the BJP-led government’s claims, it is undeniable that Muslims comprise India’s largest minority group and have faced discrimination in employment, education and political opportunities for decades. They are disproportionately the victims of communal violence and see the law as an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further limit their rights while fast-tracking citizenship for non-Muslim migrants. This is part of a trend under Modi, who has pushed controversial policies since assuming office aimed at explicitly ignoring Muslim rights and disenfranchising millions, drawing the ire of civil rights campaigners and international groups. With Modi likely to win a third consecutive term in the Prime Minister’s Office, observers believe another era of religious division is in the offing for India.

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