The Citizenship Amendment Bill, CAB has stirred a fiery response in some quarters. India’s parliament has passed a bill which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) passed the upper house of parliament, where the BJP lacks a majority, by 125 votes to 105 on 11 December.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the government’s new citizenship law.
“We passed this bill to help the persecuted,” he said at a rally in Delhi. “We need to respect India’s MPs and its parliament”.
He claims that the bill will help persecuted non Muslims fleeing majority Muslim countries. In a tragedy for India more than 20 people have died in ten days of clashes sparked by the bill, which critics see as anti-Muslim.
Critics fear the new law undermines India’s secular constitution.
The controversial law recently saw a National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in the north-eastern state of Assam where 1.9 million people were effectively deemed stateless.
The new law has already sparked widespread protests in the north-east of India which borders Bangladesh. Protesters there say they will be “overrun” by immigrants from across the border.
The new bill changes a law which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship. Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian ilegal immigrants can now apply after 6 years if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh.
Delhi lawyer Gautam Bhatia says, that by splitting alleged migrants into Muslims and non-Muslims, the new law:
explicitly and blatantly seeks to enshrine religious discrimination into law, contrary to our long-standing, secular constitutional ethos”.
Critics say if the law really was inaugurated to help the persecuted it should have been expanded to include Muslims like Ahmadis in Pakistan and Rohingyas in Myanmar. Infact the Indian Government has sought to deport the Rohingyas from the country. Earlier this year, R Jagannathan, editorial director of Swarajya magazine, wrote that