Contentious citizenship law comes into effect in India even as citizens rage

Published January 11, 2020
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are pictured in this April 8, 2019, file photo. — AP/File
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are pictured in this April 8, 2019, file photo. — AP/File

The provisions of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) have come into effect from today, according to a notification issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs late Friday night, Indian media outlet The Wire reported on Saturday.

The notification comes amid widespread protests across the country which have claimed dozens of lives as law enforcement authorities have on many instances used disproportionate force to suppress dissent.

Read more: Fury grows after protest deaths in Indian Muslim neighbourhood

Protesters from all walks of life including students and Bollywood celebrities contend that the CAA — which grants citizenship to non-Muslims who migrated to India from neighbouring countries — is discriminatory towards Muslims and is against India's secular foundations. Several critics have even termed the move as unconstitutional.

The passage of the CAA follows the first National Register of Citizens (NRC), published in August 2019, which left almost two million people — mostly Muslims — stateless. Most of those who were left out of the register had migrated from then East Pakistan in 1971.

CAA is in line with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) election promise to weed out "foreign infiltrators". Modi's right-hand man and home minister, Amit Shah, while campaigning for the 2019 elections, had vowed to expel "termites" from the country.

The Act was tabled in the Indian parliament by Home Minister Shah last month and was passed with a 125-105 majority on December 11. At the time, Modi had said it was a "landmark day for India and our nation's ethos of compassion and brotherhood".

However, the protests against CAA, which have been gaining intensity for over a month, seemed to have taken the BJP by surprise and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since insisted that Indian citizens had nothing to worry about.

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