NEW DELHI: The southern Indian state of Kerala on Tuesday became the first to legally challenge a new citizenship law that has triggered nationwide demonstrations.

In a petition to the Supreme Court, the state government said the law violates the secular nature of India’s constitution, and accused the government of dividing the nation along communal lines.

The citizenship law backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party provides a path to naturalisation for people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, unless they are Muslim.

It has triggered nationwide protests and clashes with police, leading to 23 deaths. The rallies have slowly morphed into much wider anti-government protests.

Critics say the law, which was passed by parliament on Dec 11, will be used in conjunction with a citizenship registry that could require all Indians to produce documents proving their origin, a challenge in a country where many people lack official records including birth certificates.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020