Citizenship amendment act grants Indian nationality to refugees who are Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Jain or Buddhist, but not Muslim

By Hannah Ellis-Petersen in Delhi

The Indian government has enacted a divisive citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims, just weeks before prime minister Narendra Modi heads into a general election.

The law, known as the citizenship amendment act (CAA), was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation proposed by the Modi government after it explicitly made religion the basis on which people could become Indian citizens.

Under the law, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who entered India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before December 2014 are allowed on to a fast track to Indian nationality. However Muslims are not granted the same right.

Though the law was passed in December 2019, its implementation was delayed after widespread protests and deadly violence erupted in which thousands were arrested and more than 100 people were reported to have been killed.

Many of the lawyers, activists and citizens who took to the streets had voiced concern that CAA undermined India’s secular foundations, as enshrined in the constitution, and legitimised discrimination against Muslims under the law. Many had also claimed that the law was unnecessary, as these minorities were already eligible for citizenship.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had pledged that the law would come into force before the election, which is expected in mid-April, and in which Modi is widely predicted to win a third term in power.

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