India’s controversial citizenship bill, which was proposed by the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, amends the Citizenship Act of 1955. It would naturalize immigrants from three neighbouring countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan) with a caveat: this bill will not benefit those who are Muslims.
The Indian government, ruled by a Hindu nationalist party (Bharatiya Janata Party, led by PM Nahendra Modi) said the bill seeks to ‘protect religious minorities who fled persecution in their home countries. Their proposed bill, however, seems to do quite the contrary. The main issue of this bill is its exclusion of those of the Muslim faith, further marginalising not only foreign Muslims but India’s 200 million Muslim population as well. Critics argue that the legislation is unconstitutional and undermines India’s secular ethos.
In response to this contentious bill, the general public is protesting for the government to withdraw the bill. In West Bengal alone, chief minister Mamata Banerjee held rallies to raise awareness of the issue. This led to violent protests from BJP supporters and agitators, who not only blocked the NH-34 in Murshidabad but also set 15 buses afire on Kona Expressway in the Howrah district in Kolkata. Banerjee went to the extent of saying that it would only be implemented ‘over my dead body’ in response to Amit Shah.
In conclusion, India’s citizenship bill and its effects cannot be overstated. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi have to address the points of contention raised by the protestors before the protests take a fatal turn.