A new law offering Indian citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan has sparked over a week of protests in cities throughout India as local Muslims express anger at the decision.
Such was the backlash against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Citizenship Amendment Act that a ban has been placed on protests in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, as well as parts of Delhi. This was defied by thousands of protesters, many of whom were detained by police.
The federal government claims the amnesty law offers protection to religious minorities fleeing conflict in the three Muslim-majority countries, but Indian Muslims fear that a proposed National Register of Citizens to determine who is illegal will render many of them stateless within India if they cannot prove Indian ancestry.
Whilst the Citizenship Amendment Act will protect non-Muslims who are excluded from the new register, the threat of deportation hangs over Indian Muslims who lack supporting documentation.
Critics of the law also say it violates India’s secular constitution by making one’s faith a condition of citizenship, but Modi has said opposition leaders are guilty of “spreading lies and rumours”, claiming that citizens of all faiths will be unaffected.