This Monday the streets of India were yet again filled with thousands of protesters who are against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) passed last week. This seemingly progressive and innovation-seeking country is now looking similar to Hong Kong that has been drowning in violence and sorrow over the past few months.
This Sunday, the police stormed the Jamia Millia Islamia University’s library, firing tear gas and attacking students and protesters. Later, three buses were set on dire and dozens of people were injured as a result of protests.
But why is all of this happening? Let’s take a closer look at this situation.
What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the first place? It is an amendment for a 64-year-old piece of legislation that was prohibiting illegal migrants from becoming citizens of India. Under the Indian citizenship law, all illegal immigrants were subject to deportation and imprisonment in certain situations.
What is more, this law also stated that a person must live or officially work in India for at least 11 years before being eligible for Indian citizenship. Now the bill has changed and this adjustment to the historically set law received harsh backlash from protesters.
Opponents are sure that the bill is discriminatory as it does not impose the same right to Muslim migrants. Experts are also convinced that the CAB violated India’s constitution, which stands against any religious discrimination and states that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.
People living in the northeastern state of Assam are worried that migrants who will come to India and acquire citizenship will later dilute the culture and certain policies created by Indigenous tribal people hundreds of years ago.
At the same time, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has denied the bill has anything to do with religious bias and discrimination. Together with his Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi says the new law is focused on helping minority groups that are experiencing persecution in the nearby countries: Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
On the contrary, this Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights proclaimed that the bill is “fundamentally discriminatory in nature”.
The organization’s spokesperson, Jeremy Laurence, said the bill will have “a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality. He also added:
“All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to respect, protection and fulfillment of their human rights.”
Since demonstrations began on Thursday, Assam has seen some of the most violent and brutal demonstrations that cause lots of loss and damage. According to recent updates, six people have died and more than 100 are seriously injured.
Now the demonstrations have spread across the country to Bhopal, Jaipur, Ladakh, Kerala, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Lucknow.
Narendra Modi tweeted last week:
“Debate, discussion, and dissent are essential parts of democracy but, never have damage to public property and disturbance of normal life been a part of our ethos.”
He also said:
“This is the time to maintain peace, unity, and brotherhood. It is my appeal to everyone to stay away from any sort of rumor-mongering and falsehoods.”