A new law in India will seek to block Muslim illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan from gaining citizenship.
The Citizen’s Amendment Bill (CAB) tabled by the government controversially offers an amnesty to allow once-illegal immigrants from those three countries to apply for Indian citizenship – but only those who are not Muslim.
The bill, which amends a 64-year-old law, is designed to provide refuge to persecuted minorities from bordering countries who have been in India since before 31 December 2014.
Tabling the bill, India’s home minister Amit Shah said that the government was not even “.001% against minorities”, adding: “The bill will give persecuted people citizenship and it does not violate Article 14 of the constitution.”
Article 14 prohibits the state from denying “any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
However, opposition parties are up in arms against the bill, saying it violates the fundamental values of the constitution, which states India is a secular country.
Critics say faith cannot be a condition of citizenship, adding the Hindu-nationalist government is “singling out” one community by refusing to grant them asylum.
Despite the protests, the government won a vote in the lower house, meaning the bill will now head to the upper house, where it will need the support of the smaller parties to become law.
Protests against the bill have taken place in the north east of the country, where activists say the new law will change the way in the which the region is laid out due to an influx of people from across the border.
Giving into the demands and objections, the government has decided not to implement this law in most North Eastern states. Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram and Meghalaya and parts of Assam and Tripura will not be covered by this law.
The government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party has been accused of an anti- Muslim bias.
Opposition parties and activists say they will take the case against the bill before the country’s Supreme Court.