As Flare-up Hits Normal Life Across India, Here's Why People Are Protesting Against New Citizenship Law

Mumbai: The new law that grants citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who fled Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan prior to 2015 has led to violent demonstrations.

President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the citizenship bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.

Clearance of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill triggered widespread protests in Assam, as protesters said it would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.

Some members from a minority community also protested against the law as they claim it does not give the same rights to citizenship as members of other faiths, a move critics say undermines the secular Constitution. Passage of the bill was a key election promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

How Did the Bill Secure Parliament's Support?

The BJP had promised that their party would grant citizenship to the six communities who according to the government have historically faced persecution on grounds of religion in the three Muslim-dominated countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Lawmakers belonging to the ruling party voted in favour of the bill.

What do Critics Say?

They accuse the Centre of drafting rules to favour its agenda aimed at disturbing permanent settlements belonging to a minority community. Opposition has alleged that the law is an attempt to to divert attention from the economic failures.

Who Does the Law Leave Out?

Opposition parties say the law is discriminatory as it singles out Muslims, who make up nearly 15% of population. The government says that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Muslim-majority countries, so Muslims cannot be treated as persecuted minorities.

Who Could Suffer?

Rights organisations say BJP lawmakers have cleared the bill to justify deportation of thousands of Muslims living in the northeastern state of Assam and unable to provide documents to prove Indian citizenship.

What are the discrepancies?

The law does not clarify why minority migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are favoured over those fleeing Sri Lanka and Myanmar from where minority Muslims have sought refuge in India.

What's Next?

The law has been challenged in Supreme Court by a political party, lawyers and rights groups on the grounds that it violates the secular Constitution. More than 500 eminent Indian jurists, lawyers, academics and actors, have signed a statement condemning the legislation.

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