FOR MORE THAN a month, India has been awash with protests. Triggered by the December 12 passage of the highly contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them students, have taken to the streets in defiance of the latest in a string of anti-Muslim policies rolled out by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.
The CAA fast-tracks Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, Christians, Parsis, and Jains who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from its Muslim-majority neighbors, namely Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. By smoothing the path for all non-Muslim immigrants from adjoining countries to attain citizenship, the law paves the way for practitioners of Islam to be unfairly disadvantaged when seeking to immigrate to India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has framed the CAA as a noble effort to welcome Hindus who are oppressed in neighboring Muslim-majority countries. During a recent rally in India’s capital, Modi said, “We passed this bill to help the persecuted.”
The anti-CAA protests are an unprecedented show of resistance against Modi’s BJP, and they come on the heels of several moves by the Indian government in recent months that seem designed to punish Muslims. In early August, the BJP amended the constitution to strip Kashmir, an embattled Muslim-majority region, of its autonomy. Then, in November, the Indian Supreme Court issued a ruling enabling the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a 16th-century mosque desecrated more than two decades ago by Hindu nationalists in the city of Ayodhya.
The anti-CAA protests began in the state of Assam, where the BJP had supported the implementation of a National Registry of Citizens under orders from the Supreme Court in 2015. The NRC, which grew out of a decadeslong ethno-linguistic dispute between Indigenous Assamese people and Muslim and Hindu immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, was billed as a way to identify unauthorized immigrants, forcing residents of Assam to establish their Indian lineage or be stripped of their citizenship. But the BJP turned the registry into a predominantly anti-Muslim exercise: Ultimately, a major portion of the 2 million residents of Assam who were excluded from the list were Muslim.
This story first appeared on THEINTERCEPT.COM