Protesters take to the streets of India once more to oppose Citizenship Amendment Act

Demonstrations are expected in major cities across India today in opposition to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. The new law

india citizenship protests

Photo: Reuters

Demonstrations are expected in major cities across India today in opposition to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

The new law grants a path to citizenship for illegal migrants who are Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian—but not Muslim. Opponents claim that the Act is unconstitutional, violating the provision of India’s constitution that guarantees equality under the law and protects individuals from discrimination based on religion. They have demanded its repeal, but PM Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have refused to bend.

The new law has resurfaced deep Hindu nationalist sentiments and sectarian tensions, which have long pervaded the country. For instance, between 1954 and 1982 there were close to 7,000 instances of communal violence between Muslims and Hindus.

Divisions among those protesting against the law will play into Modi and the BJP’s hands as the government decides on a response to the demonstrations. While university students have largely criticised the new law on religious discrimination grounds, many protesters—particularly Modi’s elected political rivals—have criticised the changes by warning that the new law will overburden India’s immigration system. In the medium to long term, expect the government to encourage broadening the debate to questions of immigration and Indian national identity to dilute the collective strength of opponents and promote a Hindu nationalist worldview.

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