Home Latest News India Moves to Implement Controversial 2019 Citizenship Law

India Moves to Implement Controversial 2019 Citizenship Law

Bill grants citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan—so long as they are not Muslim

by Staff Report

File photo. Prakash Singh—AFP

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government on Monday announced the implementation of its “anti-Muslim” Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, which allows Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from neighboring countries.

Under the law, which was passed in 2019, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who fled to Hindu-majority India from mainly Muslim countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan before Dec. 31, 2014, are eligible for Indian citizenship under the law. Several rights groups have declared the law “anti-Muslim” for excluding Muslim foreigners from its ambit. In 2019, after its introduction in parliament, the law had triggered protests in north India, particularly New Delhi, resulting in dozens, mostly Muslims, killed and hundreds injured.

Independent observers see the latest move to implement the law as a means to attract far-right Hindu voters to Modi ahead of elections, due in April. If victorious, this would Modi’s third term in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Speaking with the Reuters news agency, a government spokesperson said the implementation of the law was an “integral” part of the BJP’s election manifesto. “This will pave way for the persecuted to find citizenship in India,” they added.

However, concerns persist over the religious tint of the law, with Muslim groups expressing concerns it would give the government license to remove the citizenship of any Indian Muslims who lack proper documentation. The BJP, meanwhile, maintains it is aimed at helping minorities facing persecution in Muslim-majority nations.

Addressing a press conference in Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that her Trinamool Congress party, which has opposed the CAA in the past, would study the new rules before deciding on a response. “This is the BJP’s publicity for elections, it is nothing else,” she said, noting the timing of the implementation four years after the law was passed.

Similarly, Congress lawmaker Jairam Ramesh described the timing of the implementation as aimed at polarizing society.

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