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SEPTEMBER 2020

Violent Protests Rock India in Response to Discriminatory Citizenship Law

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Violent Protests Rock India in Response to Discriminatory Citizenship Law

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On December 19th, for the 7th day in a row large-scale protests took place in India following the introduction of a Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

CAA is a law that grants citizenship to religious minorities – except Muslims – from neighboring countries. The new citizenship law, which was an amendment to a 1955 legislation, allows Indian citizenship to “persecuted” minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but makes no reference to Muslims.

The legislation was pushed through India’s Parliament by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and ratified by President Ram Nath Kovind on December 12th. Critics point out that the move is part of a Hindu supremacist agenda pushed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since it came to power nearly six years ago.

The law, first introduced in Parliament in July 2016, amends the Citizenship Act 1955 by making religion a basis for citizenship. The previous law did not make religion an eligibility criterion to become a citizen. The bill was passed in the Indian Parliament in January 2019, but could not be taken up in the Upper House, following protests in the northeastern states and resistance from the opposition.

The major criticism of the law has been that it prevents Muslims from seeking citizenship.

Since the protests against the bill began the intensity of protests, as well as the response by authorities have been ramping up.

In an attempt to counter the protests, police enforced a ban prohibiting any more than four people from assembling at a given location.

Regardless, in the regions of Bangalore, Delhi, Patna and others tens of thousands of people took to the streets.

The government is furthermore attempting to impose an internet blackout. With telecom companies and internet service providers shut down their data services throughout the week in the regions with the most intense protests.

The protests were the most intense on December 15th, compared to December 19th, however they keep going.

On December 19th, three people died after being shot by authorities in the violent protests in the southern Indian city of Mangalore. This brought the death toll to 9, with 6 more being killed during earlier protests in the northeastern state of Assam, which was the epicenter of unrest leading up to December 15th.

“Our paranoid rulers in Delhi are fearful. Our Home Minister would not dare allow a peaceful protest,” Modi critic Ramachandra Guha said after police detained him at a protest in Bangalore. “Everyone should stand up; the entrepreneurs of Bangalore should stand up. Do they want this image to go around, that we are a quasi-dictatorship? We are here to assert our democratic rights.”

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath said the state would take “revenge” by seizing properties and auctioning them to recover damages from protesters who took part in violence.

It should be reminded that these actions by the Indian government follow the unilateral decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir from their special status, with many critics claiming that this was in order to carry out a purge against Muslims in the regions.

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