New Delhi, December 28, 2019 (PPI-OT): At least 27 people have been killed and thousands have been arrested amid demonstrations in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a new law that allows immigrants of religious minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to seek Indian citizenship while excluding Muslims from that prerogative.
Passed in early December, the new law has put India’s 200 million Muslims on high alert and joins a growing list of controversies spurred by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, which is accused of pushing a Hindu-nationalist agenda. Critics say that the CAA undermines India’s secular 1949 Constitution which ensures equality for all religions.
Mass demonstrations have engulfed both large and small cities nationwide, including Mumbai, New Delhi, Lucknow, Bangalore, and Malegaon. Authorities have responded with a brutal crackdown, as well as restrictions on street protests and internet shutdowns. In August 2019, the BJP-led parliament abrogated the autonomy status of Muslim-majority state Jammu and Kashmir, which has since been subjected to curfews, restrictions on public transportation, and a near-total blackout.
On November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government in the Ayodhya dispute of 1992 when Hindu radicals razed down the Babri Mosque in Uttar Pradesh, leading to nationwide violence between Hindus and Muslims. The final verdict ordered the contested land to be hand over to the government for building a Hindu site.
Another upcoming controversial measure by the BJP is the National Register of Citizens, a comprehensive database of every Indian resident. Critics fear that the purpose of this list is to identify “undesirable” and force them to prove their right to Indian citizenship. The recent construction of detention centers in the Western state of Maharashtra have raised suspicions that the government plans to arrest citizens without documentation identified by the NRC. Similar mass detention centres have been rolled out in Assam state and constructions are underway.
Amid the CAA protests, the BJP secured funds to go ahead with the database, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the matter is still under study. The BJP party is currently facing opposition to the Citizenship Act from 10 state governments, including Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand.
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