Hours before President Donald Trump's arrival in India for a 36-hour visit on Monday, Foreign Affairs Magazine has launched a bitter criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coupled with a plan to implement a nationwide counting of citizenship (National Register of Citizens or NRC) by India's Hindu nationalist government has triggered widespread protests in India.
Foreign Affairs Magazine said that India's 200 million Muslims are terrified of being deported because of CAA and NRC.
Puja Changoiwala of Foreign Affairs wrote: "Last December, India passed the CAA, which provides a route to citizenship to members of six religious minority communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan-but not for Muslims. Coupled with the NRC, a supposedly definitive list of Indian citizens, the provision is facing criticism for being anti-Muslim and unconstitutional. A similar list in Assam has already been used to single out Indian-born Muslims for potential deportation. And while members of other faiths now have the shield of the CAA as a route back into Indian citizenship if they're branded as illegal by the NRC process, Muslims have no such respite. That's a big problem. Even today, 38 percent of Indian children under the age of 5 do not have birth certificates.
"Government data shows that 6.8 million births were not registered in India in 2015-2016, and the situation is worse for older residents, who were born when home births were more prevalent in the country," she said.
There's a gulf between government rhetoric on the NRC and what critics believe, but the record of an increasingly hard-right Hindu nationalist government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes the government's word seem dubious at best, the Foreign Affairs said, adding: "There has been a systematic scapegoating of Muslims under BJP rule. Human Rights Watch published a report in 2019, observing that the party uses 'communal rhetoric' to spur 'a violent vigilante campaign' whereby radical cow-protection groups lynched 44 people to death, 36 of them Muslims, between May 2015 and December 2018. Prior to its landslide win in the 2019 elections, the BJP also used religious polarization as a campaigning tool, making promises such as the expedited construction of a temple in place of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya."
After the CAA bill was signed into law, widespread protests erupted across the country, killing 25 people so far and leaving thousands in police detention. The government has downplayed the NRC, stating that it has no plans of conducting the NRC exercise across the country on religious lines.
"Since CAA is so discriminatory, it has given way to fear that even if people have their documents in place, they will be left out of NRC. Ordinary people think, and not without substance, that this is an attempt to rob them of their citizenship," Zakia Soman, a co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (bmma), a nationwide-rights organization for Muslims, told the Foreign Affairs
Nishat Hussain, the founder of the National Muslim Women Welfare Society in Jaipur, was quoted as saying many Muslims are apprehensive of the future and have joined protest marches to oppose the controversial CAA/NRC. She said many Muslims do have the basic, essential documents, such as passports and Aadhar cards, which have unique 12-digit identification numbers for Indian citizens. However, these might not be enough. "In Assam, many were left out of the NRC despite having these documents," Hussain said. "They want decades-old documents, which are impossible to find."
To help Muslims, the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf, a statutory body in southwestern India, has recently issued a circular to mosques, citing a need to prepare family profiles of all Muslims residing in their jurisdiction. It also calls on mosques to maintain registers with important documents of all Muslims, including birth and education certificates, voter-ID cards, and ration cards, among others. The circular notes: "Controversies are reported regarding the inclusion and exclusion of names in the NRC. Recent survey conducted by various NGOs reveal that larger section of citizens of the minority community are deprived of the right to vote due to non-enrolment/updating in electoral rolls of various constituencies. Substantial number of citizens do not have the basic documents to prove their domicile in the locality."
Here are headlines of Indian media about anti-CAA protests:
- Outlook India: Clashes Near Anti-CAA Protest in Delhi's Jaffrabad, Police Fire Tear Gas in Maujpur
- India Today: Delhi: Stone-pelting in Maujpur during CAA stir, police lob tear-gas shells
- Indian Express: Stone-pelting near CAA protest site, DMRC closes 2 stations
- NVTV: In Delhi's Jaffrabad, over 1,000 women block road over CAA, back Bhim Army's strike call
- The Week: Jaffrabad anti-CAA protests: women block road connecting Seelampur with Maujpur and - -- - Yamuna Vihar; Delhi Metro shuts station