India’s Citizenship Amendment Act gives rise to protests
February 6, 2020
On Dec. 11, India’s parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, a piece of legislation that fast-tracks Indian citizenship to immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, it is a faith-based amendment, and since it has been passed, a state of controversy and protest has spread internationally.
The CAA takes Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians under its wing but excludes Muslims. This exclusion has caused great and sometimes violent protests to take place not only in India, but also in the United States. Opposition to the amendment is led by a strong disappointment in the discrimination against Muslims; some also fear for an influx of settlers in India.
Additionally, the National Register of Citizens, an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens, causes fear that it will be implemented as a nationwide legislation. The NRC paired with the CAA sit as the cause of the international protests. This duo could potentially allow India’s government to qualify minorities as illegal immigrants. Neha Arun, freshman in LAS, sees a contrast between India’s democracy and CAA.
“As a country that publicized itself as the world’s largest democracy, it’s kind of hypocritical of them to pass this amendment that is pretty discriminatory,” Arun said.
India’s government, led by a Hindu Nationalist party under the Bharatiya Janata Party, argues that the CAA will uphold India’s deep-ingrained culture. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that this act “illustrates India’s centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion and brotherhood.”
Devansh Sethia, freshman in Engineering, believes this tweet is meant to just assure people.
“You would expect him to write that,” Sethia said. “It’s nothing special.”
The BJP, previously led by Amit Shah, is known to have a Hindu agenda and a vision of India as a homeland for Hindus. Last year, Shah referred to illegal immigrants as “termites,” something the U.S. noted to point out in its annual human rights report, according to an article by Reuters.
“The party emphasizes that they will convert India to a more Hindu country,” Arun said.
After the passing of the amendment, protests broke out in India, resulting in police combating uprisings with violence. At least 27 people have been killed and about a thousand arrested, according to a news report by Aljazeera.
“The police are connected to the government, so for people to see how the police are reacting to the situation is an extension of the government’s attitude towards how much they care about these students,” Arun said.
Even during India’s Republic Day, which is on Jan. 26, thousands of protesters filled cities in India, creating human chains and trying to fight against the CAA and NRC. Sethia, who is originally from New Delhi, where the annual Republic Day parade takes place, said the protests are in contrast with how celebratory Republic Day usually is. However, he gave a potential reason as to why protesters decided to organize uprisings on this day:
“Prime ministers from other countries visit the parade,” Sethia said. “A lot of countries look at India on that day.”
As protesters hope for their voices to be heard by the parliament, Modi’s Hindu nationalist party continues to stand for the CAA, and claim that it furthers India’s values.
“They keep debating on the news as a distraction, but they won’t go back on what they’ve done,” Sethia said. “Never.”