July 27, 2021

Why India protests against a citizenship law and a still theoretical census

For two weeks, India has been experiencing a wave of protests in which about twenty people have died against a legal amendment with which the Prime Minister's Government, Narendra Modi, wants to give citizenship to immigrant religious minorities while leaving out Muslims.

These are the keys to the law that meets tomorrow two weeks of being approved:


The amendment to the Citizenship Law was approved by Parliament and is the main cause of protests whose magnitude has taken by surprise the Modi Government, winner by a resounding majority in the generals of last May.

The controversial text seeks to regularize undocumented immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parish and Christian religions and who have been living in India for more than five years.

The amendment, together with the stated intention of the Government to carry out a National Registry of Citizens (NRC), similar to the census that excluded almost two million people last August in the northeastern state of Assam, triggered the alarms .


"The Indians take pride in their secular identity," the director of the Human Rights Watch organization for South Asia, Meenakshi Ganguly, summed up Efe.

It is true that minorities in the three neighboring countries of Muslim majority have been victims of violence, Ganguly acknowledged, but by adopting this law "India is also blatantly discriminating against religion."

This is a missed opportunity to develop adequate legislation in a country that has been welcoming people from Tibet, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka for decades, but lacks a specific law for refugees and is not part of the main United Nations treaties. that regulate them, he explained.


Another reason why the legal amendment has unleashed unprecedented protests in the last five years ruled by Modi is that the Muslim minority, some 200 million people, is especially under attack.

That is what the prominent activist Harsh Mander believes, who stressed to Efe the fear of Muslims to be relegated to the status of second-class citizens.

"The dangers of the Citizenship Law are only visible in relation to the National Registry of Citizens," denounced Mander, who is almost 65 years old, and who was one of many detainees on Thursday last week in New Delhi between courts Internet and a strong police device to avoid protests.

In Assam, where as in the rest of the northeastern states there is a strong anti-immigrant sentiment regardless of religion, the goal of the law is to rethink the significant percentage of Hindus excluded in the census, he said.

"The agenda is to somehow ensure that people with Hindu identity who do not have documents are protected from becoming non-citizens and (the burden) falls only on Muslims' shoulders," he explained.

In the rest of India the intention would be similar, according to the activist.

For Mander, the Modi government declared "a war against Muslims from the beginning", first avoiding "for the first time" presenting candidates of this minority to the elections and then validating the "worst climate of hate" that India has seen .

A situation that translated in the last five years in an increase in cases of lynchings to Muslims at the hands of the self-appointed cow protectors, with the excuse of preventing the illegal sacrifice of this sacred animal for Hinduism.


The protests, which have left images of women in the front line delivering roses to the police but also of burned vehicles and protesters throwing stones, took the Government by surprise.

On December 15, a police action at the main Muslim university in New Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia, caused a wave of indignation and the rapid multiplication of protests.

Security forces stormed the campus without authorization and evicted students from the library and even the restrooms, leaving a trail of shattered furniture.

So far the demonstrations have left at least 21 dead mainly concentrated in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in which the authorities imposed restrictions and cut internet in several cities, and in Assam, where it was necessary to mobilize the army.

For Mander it is not a coincidence: "Delhi and states ruled by the BJP (Modi's party) are the only ones in which this violence is occurring, especially in Uttar Pradesh. In all other states they are entirely peaceful."


"The Muslims of India need not worry," Modi launched during a political act last Sunday in Delhi, where he tried to call for calm.

But Modi also contradicted the multiple public statements of his own Interior Minister, Amit Shah, and his electoral program: "I want to tell the 1.3 billion Indians that since my Government came to power, from then until now, it has not talked about the Registry anywhere. "

Modi also denied the existence of immigration detention centers, a statement that contradicts numerous reports in local media and organizations such as Amnesty International (AI).

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst and biographer of Modi, does not give much credit to those statements.

"I don't know what Modi speech to believe. Do I believe what he said on Sunday or the various interviews he gave months ago in which he said he was going to implement the National Citizen Registry?" He said.

For Mukhopadhyay, Modi runs the risk of seeing how protests open to broader issues such as lack of jobs or low economic growth.

"Modi should worry about the fact that young people are joining the protests, it means that young people are not very convinced by their nationalist propaganda," he settled.

David Asta Alares

. (tagsToTranslate) India (t) protest (t) citizenship (t) census (t) theory

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