A selective amendment . . .
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which passed both the lower and upper houses of parliament in India last week, allows persecuted minorities from three countries to seek a fast-track to Indian citizenship. The law only covers immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan who identify as Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, or Buddhist, and who arrived in India before December 31, 2014. According to Indian Prime Minister Modi, the new law does not affect current Indian citizens, irrespective of their religion, but is "for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no place to go except India." The CAA has been widely criticized as an act that attacks the secular principles on which India was founded. It doesn’t address the persecuted Ahmadi Muslims of Pakistan, Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka, or Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.
Protest and repression . . .
The law is exclusionary in nature and this is the first instance that religion has been used as a legal basis for granting citizenship in the world’s largest democracy. Protests and demonstrations have erupted across the country with people opposing the Act for a variety of reasons, including that it is discriminatory, and also that India’s border regions such as Assam may be overrun by immigrants. Alarmingly violent retaliation to these protests in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, particularly on college campuses, has sparked even more rallying across the country. The United Nations’ human rights office has urged the Indian government to scrap the law. Meanwhile, the Indian Supreme Court has turned down the plea to stop the CAA’s implementation, although it confirmed it will hold hearings in January 2020.
Muzzling the Internet . . .
The tactic of shutting down the Internet in an effort to muzzle the rapid dissemination of information, as we saw recently in Kashmir, has been extended to other parts of the country as the government attempts to contain anti-CAA protests. Some 60 million people are now affected by these shutdowns. In fact, India has experienced the highest number of Internet shutdowns in the world with 134 shutdowns in 2018, and 93 in 2019. By contrast, Pakistan ranks second, with 12 shutdowns last year.