The Indian Citizenship Amendment Act: A Prelude to Marginalization

In contemporary India, the status quo for minority groups, notably the Muslim demographic comprising 14.2% of the population, is experiencing a notable erosion. A comprehensive report by Hindutva Watch has meticulously documented 255 instances of hate speech specifically targeting Muslims within the initial half of the calendar year 2023, with a conspicuous concentration of these incidents within states under the governance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The escalating frequency of hate crimes directed at religious minorities has drawn the attention of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, prompting consecutive recommendations for India’s designation as a “Country of Particular Concern” over the past quadrennial.

The contentious enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has galvanized debate by institutionalizing religious discrimination against minority communities, flagrantly contravening the foundational principles enshrined within India’s constitutional framework, particularly under the auspices of Article 15, which proclaims equal treatment and proscribes discrimination based on religious affiliation. The BJP administration, in a systematic endeavor, has embarked upon measures designed to marginalize the Indian Muslim populace. Commencing with the inception of Foreigner Tribunals in June 2019, and culminating in the pronouncement of the National Register of Citizens a month preceding the ratification of the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019, these legislative maneuvers possess the potential to confer statelessness upon Muslims. Those relegated to the fringes by exclusion from the National Register of Citizens and adjudication by Foreigner Tribunals face the ominous specter of citizenship revocation and detention. Conversely, religious cohorts shielded under the aegis of the CAA are poised to retain their citizenship, perpetuating the precarious vulnerability of Muslims within the Indian sociopolitical milieu.

Given the BJP-led Modi government’s fervent pursuit of a third term anchored in Hindu nationalist principles, it has adeptly deployed a spectrum of electoral tactics to consolidate its authority. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi, a populist administration, BJP operatives have harnessed the tenets of extremist Hindutva ideology to enact policies discriminating against and marginalizing the Muslim populace within India. These exclusionary measures, consciously propagated by the Modi administration, systematically sideline minority groups, with a particularly egregious focus on Muslims. Hindutva ideologues assert a stark dichotomy between Hindus and Muslims, echoing the sentiments articulated by figures such as Veer Savarkar and Golwalkar. Savarkar, dating back to 1942, advocated for treating Muslims as potential adversaries to the Indian state, denying them equitable citizenship rights. His endorsement of egregious acts like the rape of women from perceived enemy groups underscores the severity of his stance. Similarly, Golwalkar envisioned a subservient status for non-Hindu individuals within India, devoid of basic citizenship entitlements. By adhering to the doctrines espoused by these radical Hindutva ideologues, the contemporary BJP government actively pursues policies systematically disenfranchising minority groups, particularly Muslims. This approach signifies a troubling trend toward the marginalization and exclusion of minority populations within the Indian political sphere.

The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in India’s upper house of parliament on December 11, 2019, epitomizes its ethnoreligious bias, explicitly ostracizing Muslims while affording legal protections to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. This legislative maneuver underscores a blatant agenda of sectarian favoritism. Despite assertions that the CAB accommodates a broader religious spectrum, India’s constitutional framework does not distinguish Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism as separate religions from Hinduism, perpetuating a Hindu-centric narrative. The BJP’s historical discourse overwhelmingly prioritizes Hindu interests, exemplified by its 2014 manifesto designating India as the exclusive “natural home” for Hindus. The subsequent inclusion of Christians appears calculated to curry favor with Western leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, who champion the cause of persecuted Christians globally. The nominal reference to Parsis, though insignificant on a global scale, serves merely as a guise of inclusivity, concealing the underlying agenda of promoting a pan-Hinduist ethos. Despite claims of ameliorating living conditions for minorities, the law offers no respite to persecuted communities like the Tamils of Sri Lanka or the Rohingya from Myanmar.

As the Lok Sabha elections in India loom closer, the Modi government has once again announced its intent to implement the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). This maneuver is perceived as a strategic gambit aimed at securing the support of the populist Hindutva constituency. The timing of the CAA’s introduction during the 2019 election season suggests a recurring pattern of political expediency. With a paucity of tangible offerings for the general populace, the BJP government seeks to entice voters by championing policies aligned with the interests of right-wing Hindu factions, which have been steadily gaining traction. Furthermore, the CAA serves as a pivotal component in the BJP’s broader strategy to propagate the concept of Akhand Bharat, envisioning a unified Hindu-centric nation.

In India, deep-seated apprehensions pervade the polity regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), with a prevailing sentiment that its implementation represents a calculated move by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to consolidate its electoral base. Priyank Kharge, the IT Minister of Karnataka, has prominently voiced concerns regarding the constitutional validity of the legislation, reflecting broader anxieties about its legal soundness. The decision to promulgate the CAA amidst electoral proceedings underscores the BJP’s penchant for employing divisive political strategies rather than prioritizing substantive policy initiatives aimed at societal development. The CAA’s enactment has ignited a furor within India’s political landscape, with Atishi Singh, the Education Minister of Delhi, casting aspersions on the BJP’s motives and framing the law as a smokescreen to obfuscate its perceived administrative inadequacies spanning the past decade. The controversial provision granting citizenship to undocumented migrants is perceived as a cynical ploy to court favor with external demographics, given the waning support for the BJP among indigenous Indian constituents.

Beyond India’s borders, the CAA has elicited condemnation on global platforms, with international human rights watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International decrying its discriminatory impact on the Muslim minority. The United Nations has unequivocally denounced the legislation as intrinsically discriminatory and a flagrant violation of India’s international human rights commitments. Similarly, the United States Department of State has echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the paramount importance of religious freedom and equal treatment for all communities as cardinal principles of democratic governance.

In a defiant stance against the central government’s directives, Chief Ministers of key states including Tamil Nadu, Bengal, and Kerala have adamantly declared their refusal to implement the CAA within their respective jurisdictions, signaling a potential fissure in the federal-state relations landscape. This burgeoning discontent underscores the far-reaching implications of the CAA, both domestically and on the global stage, as India navigates the delicate intersection of politics, law, and international relations.

The implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) presents a dire scenario for the Muslim community in India, characterized by heightened marginalization and discrimination. The agenda pursued by the BJP-led government, steeped in Hindu nationalist ideology, poses an imminent threat to the fundamental rights and freedoms of Indian Muslims. The enactment of the CAA, coupled with the proliferation of hate speech and communal violence, exacerbates existing tensions and reinforces a narrative of exclusion and persecution. As the plight of Indian Muslims continues to worsen, there is a pressing need for concerted international action to uphold their rights and ensure their protection in the face of mounting discrimination and injustice.







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