Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act sparks protests in India

On 11 December 2019, the Parliament of India amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 approving a proposal of Amit Shah, India’s home minister and member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) of 2019 provides a path to Indian citizenship for individuals of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious background, who had fled persecution from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before December 2014. The CAB does not extend to Muslims from these countries who sought refuge in India. It triggered violent protests across a number of Indian states, in which at least 25 people have been killed and hundreds placed under arrest.

The bill has been criticized by the opposition parties as a part of the BJP’s larger strategy for reshaping India as a Hindu state and for significantly changing the meaning of Indian citizenship. The CAB has also raised concerns that it might affect the country’s secular standing, as it ‘translates into a selective faith-based amnesty for a large segment of the 1.9 million people not included in the National Register of Citizens in Assam’.

The Indian Union Muslim League has appealed against the law to the Supreme Court.

For further details see The Economist and The Indian Times. You can also read a series of short articles on Who Is a Citizen in Contemporary India? curated by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard; or our blog series on the National Register of Citizens in Assam: Paths to Citizenship, Paths to Statelessness by Niraja Gopal Jayal, India’s National Register of Citizens: Fine intentions, Ominous portents by Sanjib Baruah, and The National Registry of Citizens: Violating Muslims, Violating Humanity in Assam by Yasmin Saikia.

The cover image of this news item features locals in New Delhi protest against the CAB and was originally taken by Sanjeev Yadav.