Reflection of bigotry as India's state policy

Citizenship Amendment Bill 

Religious test for migrants a reflection of bigotry as India's state policy says Indian Americans


Eastern Crescent News Desk

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, today strongly condemned the move to turn into law the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and termed the bill a "reflection of bigotry as India's state policy."

The drive to legislate exclusion of one religious community once again exposes the socially divisive agenda of the Hindutva rightwing forces in India that aim to reconstitute India into a Hindu theocracy by subverting the Constitution from its pluralist moorings.

Prior to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) it was the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that sought to turn over a million Indians, many of whom have lived in Assam for generations, into stateless aliens. Although the NRC was primarily targeted at Muslims, in a move intended to boost Hindutva politics in Assam, it backfired and ended up designating many Hindus as aliens. The Citizenship Amendment Bill apparently seeks to remedy that by explicitly calling out Muslim migrants as ineligible for citizenship. In order for India's continued existence as a secular polity, it is essential to expose Hindutva's supremacist agenda in comprehensive terms.

The short term goal is clearly to re-designate Hindus who were stripped of citizenship by the ill-conceived NRC as “persecuted” religious refugees, primarily from Bangladesh. This would then leave the Assamese Muslims with no recourse to getting their citizenship back.

The Bill's mandate is to designate only non-Muslim migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as eligible for Indian citizenship on grounds of persecution in their home countries, while denying Muslim Rohingya migrants from Myanmar the same refugee status.

"This two-pronged attack on millions of Indian Muslim citizens, as well as legitimate Muslim refugees from neighboring countries not only smacks of Islamophobia, but is inhuman, immoral and a violation of accepted norms of civilized societies and nation states," said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC.

"Attempts to marginalize 200 million Indian Muslims based on a bigoted worldview can bring no good to the nation," added Mr. Khan.

That said, progressive elements in India are deeply concerned that in its trademark style the BJP will subvert the law by coercion, pressure tactics and by exploiting possible legal loopholes. This was precisely the playbook followed when it revoked the constitutionally mandated special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is noteworthy that Indian Muslims have long been economically marginalized. The more obvious toxic release of Hindutva forces in the country (spearheaded by the RSS) seeks to crush their spirit and social status as well as render them illegal through various contrivances such as the NRC and CAB.

"As citizens of the world and as human beings India's rapid descent into fascism should concern us all," said Mr. Afzal Ali, Vice-President of IAMC. "As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,'" added Mr. Ali.

Closer scrutiny of the Bill reveals a pattern of religious and racial discrimination. The exclusion of Tamil Hindus from Sri Lanka is no oversight. It lays bare the BJP’s narrow minded ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan’ (One language-One religion-One nation) approach to nationhood.

While harping on the lofty ideal of providing refuge to those who are persecuted on religious grounds, the BJP is actively undermining the status of minorities in general and Muslims in particular. It is also playing appeasement politics, something it has long accused various opposition parties of doing.

IAMC has lauded resistance to the Bill from some Opposition parties and called on all people of conscience to exert greater effort in preventing India from engaging in a war with its own citizens.