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December 11, 2019

Citizenship Amendment Bill: Modi crosses another anti-Muslim milestone

Top Story

December 11, 2019

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: Protesters in northeast India set fire to tyres and cut down trees to block roads in a shutdown across the region hours after lawmakers approved the Modi government’s new citizenship bill which denies Muslims the right to citizenship.

The legislation, set to go before the upper house today (Wednesday), will fast-track citizenship claims from refugees from three neighbouring countries — but not if they are Muslim. Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others have said this fits into the Hindu nationalist agenda of prime minister Narendra Modi. They say he wants to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims. People in northeast India object for different reasons, fearing that large numbers of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who they say are intruders, will be given citizenship.

On Tuesday, the region – sandwiched between Bangladesh, China and Myanmar – was crippled by a general strike called by dozens of organisations. Bus services were halted and most schools and shops were shut.

“The bandh (strikes) have drawn a total response in the northeastern states,” said Samujjal Bhattacharyya, from the powerful umbrella group the North East Students’ Organisation. “We have made it clear ... that CAB (the citizenship amendment bill) will not be accepted and we are going to intensify our agitation,” he said. “Assam and northeastern states had already taken a huge burden of illegal foreigners,” he said.

India’s lower house passed the bill just after midnight after a fierce debate in which one Muslim MP compared the government to the Nazis. All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi tore a copy of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha, saying that the Bill tries to divide the country.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Owaisi said the Bill was not only the part of a conspiracy to make Indian Muslims stateless but would also lead to pose a risk to the national security. Justifying his act to tear the bill, Owaisi said that he was following the footprints of Mahatma Gandhi, who opposed the certificate which was issued to Asia-origin people in South Africa.

Addressing the Chair, he said: "You know madam how Mahatma Gandhi became Mahatma? He tore the national register card in South Africa. Since Mahatma tore that card, I am tearing this as it tries to divide the country."

"The government is hatching a conspiracy by the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the NRC (National Register of Citizens) to make Muslims stateless. I oppose this bill as it is against the constitution and an insult to our freedom fighters," he said.

The law would make it much easier for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees and Christians fleeing Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to be given Indian citizenship. Modi’s government says Muslims are excluded because they do not face persecution in these three countries.

In Pakistan, The National Assembly Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the legislation passed by the Indian Lok Sabha relating to amendment in the Indian Citizenship Act in contradiction of all international laws.

The resolution was moved by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari which was adopted by the House unanimously. The House observed that the amendment in the Indian Citizenship Act violates all the international laws, particularly the human rights laws.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said Pakistan condemns this move as it is a complete violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants on elimination of all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief.

The United States Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF) has sought sanctions against Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership if the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill is passed by the parliament, said international media.

"If the CAB passes in both houses of parliament, the U.S. government should consider sanctions against the Home Minister and other principal leadership," the USCIRF recommended in its statement.

"The latest legislation is another major step towards the realisation of the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, idealised and relentlessly pursued by the right-wing Hindu leaders for several decades. It is driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region.

"It is also a clear manifestation of interference in the internal matters of neighbouring countries based on religion, which we reject completely," added the statement from the Foreign Office.

There has been condemnation from inside India too as the legislation now moved to the Upper House. The Foreign Office pointed out that India’s pretentions were equally reprehensible as it cast itself as homeland for minorities allegedly persecuted in the neighbouring countries.

“The massacre of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, the Samjhauta Express carnage, innumerable lynchings by cow-vigilantes, repugnant schemes like Ghar wapsi and ‘Love Jihad’, and violence against Christians, Sikhs, Jains and even low-caste Dalits are the hallmarks of the new India ruled by the proponents of the extremist Hindu ideology. The continuing persecution of 8 million unarmed and innocent Kashmiris, collectively incarcerated and penalized by 900,000 Indian occupation forces, goes to further illustrate this blatantly extremist mindset,” added the statement.

While condemning the legislation, the Foreign Office said it is regressive and discriminatory, which is in violation of all relevant international conventions and norms, and a glaring attempt by India to interfere in the neighbouring countries with malafide intent.

“This Indian legislation has also, once again, exposed the hollowness of the claims to ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’. Pushed by the majoritarian agenda, it has revealed to the world the RSS-BJP exclusivist mentality and the true extent of their animus against the Muslims”, said the statement.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi on Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day said, “As we commemorate this day, we must remember people under occupation, facing gross human rights violations and being denied fundamental freedoms, including the right to self-determination. The people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir continue to face the worst form of brutalisation and abuses by Indian occupation forces. Post-5 August, India has applied draconian measures to suppress Kashmiri voices from reaching the international community.”

In a statement he said it was the obligation of the international community to take urgent steps to stop human rights violations and crimes against humanity in IOK, urge India to implement all UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir dispute and fulfil its own obligations related to protection of the rights of women and children.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned the Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation, which he said violated all norms of international human rights laws and bilateral agreements with Pakistan.

The prime minister took to Twitter to register his condemnation of the highly controversial legislation, as he pointed out that the legislation was part of the RSS Hindu Rashtrya design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi government. “We strongly condemn Indian Lok Sabha citizenship legislation which violates all norms of int human rights law & bilateral agreements with Pak. It is part of the RSS "Hindu Rashtra" design of expansionism propagated by the fascist Modi Govt,” he tweeted.

An image of PM Modi was uploaded on his Twitter account flashing victory sign regarding the law, which will grant citizenship to religious minorities from neighbouring Muslim countries but excludes Muslim refugees.