India protests against Muslim exclusion laws
HUNDREDS of protesters across India have been detained while demonstrating against new laws which they say could open the doors to Indian Muslims being deported, imprisoned and made stateless.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) offers citizenship to any non-Muslim illegal immigrants or asylum seekers, aimed at those fleeing religious persecution in Muslim-majority neighbouring countries like Pakistan.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) requires every person in India to have documentary evidence that they are allowed to live there. This goes beyond ID cards and tax slips to include ancestors’ birth certificates.
The NRC applied only in the northeastern state of Assam until last month when the interior minister, Amit Shah, announced it would be rolled out nationwide.
Nearly two million people in Assam were identified and asked to prove their citizenship or be considered foreign. The CAA will allow those who are not Muslim to regain official citizenship, while excluding the millions of Muslims born and raised in India.
Critics say it is the latest effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu government to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, and a violation of the secular constitution.
The protests swept across the whole country, including the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, and in the cities of Bangalore and New Delhi. Historian Ramachandra Guha, a biographer of Mahatma Gandhi, was among those detained in Bangalore.
In New Delhi, Yogendra Yadav, head of the Swaraj Abhiyan party, was among those detained as protesters demonstrated at the capital’s iconic Red Fort and historic district. Internet and phone services were blocked around the fort and in some other parts of New Delhi, a tactic Indian authorities use to try to stop people from organising protests.