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India announces steps to implement a citizenship law that excludes Muslims

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Weeks before the Hindu nationalist leader seeks a third term in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Monday unveiled plans to enact a 2019 citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

For Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who fled to Hindu-majority India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan before December 31, 2014, the Citizenship Amendment Act offers a quick route to naturalization. The majority Muslim population in all three countries is barred under the legislation.

The law was approved by Indian Parliament in 2019, but Modi’s government had held off with its implementation after deadly protests broke out in capital New Delhi and elsewhere. Scores were killed during days of clashes.
The nationwide protests in 2019 drew people of all faiths who said the law undermines India’s foundation as a secular nation. Muslims were particularly worried that the government could use the law, combined with a proposed national register of citizens, to marginalize them.

The National Register of Citizens is part of Modi government’s effort to identify and weed out people it claims came to India illegally. The register has only been implemented in the northeastern state of Assam, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has promised to roll out a similar citizenship verification program nationwide.

Modi’s government has defended the 2019 citizenship law as a humanitarian gesture. It argues that the law is meant only to extend citizenship to religious minorities fleeing persecution and would not be used against Indian citizens.

India is home to 200 million Muslims who make up a large minority group in the country of more than 1.4 billion people. They are scattered across almost every part of India and have been targeted in a series of attacks that have taken place Modi first assumed power in 2014.

Critics say Modi’s conspicuous silence over anti-Muslim violence has emboldened some of his most extreme supporters and enabled more hate speech against Muslims.

Modi has increasingly mixed religion with politics in a formula that has resonated deeply with India’s majority Hindu population. In January, he opened a Hindu temple at the site of a demolished mosque in northern Ayodhya city, fulfilling his party’s long-held Hindu nationalist pledge.

Most poll surveys suggest Modi will win a majority in a general election that is scheduled to be held by May.

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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