India’s anti-Muslim citizenship law ‘patently discriminatory’: New York Times

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (APP):A leading American newspaper Thursday denounced as “patently discriminatory” India’s new citizenship law, and urged all democratic nations to speak out against it.

“The law, as India’s 200 million Muslims have correctly surmised, has nothing to do with helping migrants and everything to do with the campaign by Mr. Modi and his home minister, Amit Shah, to marginalize Muslims and turn India into a homeland for Hindus, who comprise about 80 percent of the population of 1.3 billion,” the Editorial Board of The New York Times said, referring to the eruption of protests across India after the law was passed by Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last week.

The editorial, “Modi makes his bigotry even clearer”, said: “The devil is in the missing details. Accelerated citizenship is offered to members of the Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Parsee and Jain religions — but not to Muslims.

And the only neighboring countries named in the law are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, all majority Muslim. Other neighbors, from Sri Lanka to China, where Muslims do not predominate, are not mentioned.

“The not-so-hidden message is that the Muslim-majority countries abutting India persecute Hindus and other minorities, and that Muslims from such countries cannot be refugees — even people like the Rohingya, some of whom have reached India after fleeing to Bangladesh from brutal repression in Myanmar….”

“Last summer, Mr. Modi’s government abruptly stripped statehood and autonomy from India’s only Muslim-majority state, Kashmir, arresting many of its leaders and shutting down the internet. Also in August, Mr. Modi aggressively escalated a program of citizenship tests in the northeastern state of Assam, leaving nearly two million people, many of them Muslims, potentially stateless. Mr. Modi has vowed to extend the process, which requires Indians to prove they’re Indian, to the entire country and is building large new detention centers for those who can’t.

“In common with other governments around the world that have turned undocumented immigrants into a nationalist issue, including President Trump’s, Mr. Shah has taken to demonizing the primary target of the dragnets, Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, whom he refers to as ‘termites.’

“Those initial moves met little resistance. The citizenship bill, by contrast, has provoked furious protests across India, some of which have been viciously repressed by police and the army.

The government has also shut down the internet in several regions, a tactic against dissent used by India more than any other authoritarian-leaning government in the world, claiming it is necessary to prevent violence and false rumors. Kashmir has been offline since August, and India is by far the world’s leader in the number of internet shutdowns.

“Still, the reaction to the citizenship law has apparently surprised Mr. Modi, who was re-elected by a comfortable margin last May, but he has shown no signs of backing down.

He rose to power by vilifying Muslims, a core tenet of Hindu nationalists. When Mr. Modi was chief minister of Gujarat state, thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands were driven from their home in sectarian violence; most victims were Muslims.

“This is not the way India was meant to be. The vision of Mohandas Gandhi (who was murdered by a Hindu nationalist) and Jawaharlal Nehru after the partition of British-ruled India into a Muslim-majority Pakistan and a Hindu-majority India was to build the latter into a secular and democratic republic, with civil liberties for citizens of all faiths.

“Since he took office in 2014, Mr. Modi has actively worked to change that, even rewriting history books to exclude Muslim rulers — who, among other things, built the Taj Mahal — and changing official place names to Hindu from Muslim. Hindu mobs that lynch Muslims are rarely punished.

“The citizenship bill was the first action that linked religion to citizenship, undermining a fundamental tenet of India’s democracy.

Some non-Muslim Indian liberals, including members of the once-dominant Congress Party, have joined in the protests. The law has also drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups and governments.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the citizenship bill “fundamentally discriminatory,” and the United States State Department issued a statement urging India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with India’s Constitution and democratic values.” Alas, that would be far more credible if the Trump administration was treating undocumented immigrants in keeping with America’s democratic values.

“Mr. Modi’s hold on power remains firm, but the protests at home and abroad have demonstrated limits to how far Indians will allow him to go in pursuit of his Hindu-nationalist agenda.

The citizenship bill might still be blocked in the Indian Supreme Court, which begins hearings on it in January.

But if it is not, all democratic nations need to speak out against a law, and a national policy, that is patently discriminatory and a threat to India’s democracy.”

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