Friday, July 19, 2024

India to enforce controversial citizenship law despite criticism


India’s government has announced its intention to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a contentious law criticized for its perceived anti-Muslim stance. The CAA, passed in 2019, allows non-Muslim religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship, citing persecution as the reason.

The law, which triggered mass protests resulting in casualties and arrests, is set to be enacted, according to the country’s home affairs minister, Amit Shah. He revealed the development on social media, stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had fulfilled a commitment to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians in the mentioned countries.

Eligible individuals can now apply for Indian citizenship online, with an established portal for applications. The Indian home ministry clarified that the law, often surrounded by misconceptions, experienced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to assist those who have faced prolonged persecution.

The CAA amendment has been a prominent electoral promise of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of upcoming general elections. It modifies the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, barring illegal migrants from obtaining Indian citizenship. Under the new law, applicants must prove their arrival in India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan by December 31, 2014.

While the Indian government has not provided a specific implementation date, BJP leaders have hinted at the law’s enforcement before the elections. Protests against the CAA have already surfaced in various states, including Assam and Kerala, where shutdowns and demonstrations have been announced.

Critics argue that the CAA violates the secular principles of India’s constitution, emphasizing religious discrimination. Concerns also arise about its potential use, in conjunction with a proposed national register of citizens, to target the Muslim population and the exclusion of certain refugees, such as Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Opposition parties accuse the government of political motives behind the timing of the law’s implementation ahead of the elections.

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