The Anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Bill: Challenges for Democracy in India

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Abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, granting special status of people of Kashmir and other minority groups residing in India, not only displaced millions of Indian citizens but also created a void in the country’s constitution. According to the new law passed by Presidential Order, signed by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in 2019, only non-Muslim immigrants entering Indian from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan (2015 and onwards) would be accepted as legal citizens by the Indian government.

The passage of this bill and the fact that the Government of India has made the religion of individuals a criterion for the granting of citizenship does not exist in any international law or convention. In fact, the Indian government has committed a clear violation of the human rights and international conventions to which it has acceded.

The passage of the bill is one of the election promises of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who seeks to strengthen his nationalist base in the Hindu community. Some experts say the passage of the law reflects the party’s move (Bharatiya Janata Party – BJP; government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi) towards fascist policies and the party’s policies are comparable to twentieth-century fascist governments in Italy and Germany (Hameed, 2020). The law sparked widespread protests across India, making it one of the biggest crises facing Hindu nationalists led by Narenda Modi since coming to power in 2014.

With the implementation of the new law, India witnessed Muslim-led protests with human rights activists, student organizations, Islamist organizations, and secular groups participating in the protests. The protests led to numerous clashes, according to Human Rights Watch, “At least 52 more people were killed in the three days of communal violence that broke out in India’s capital. Over 200 were injured, properties destroyed, and communities displaced in targeted attacks by Hindu mobs. While a policeman and some Hindus were also killed, the majority of victims were Muslim.”

Regarding the causes of such a crisis, it should be said that the growth of extremism in India seems to be similar to other parts of the world. Former President Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States; Emmanuel Macron’s extremist policies in France, in addition to the National Front led by Marine Le Pen in France, which has become the second most popular party in the country. Moreover, many extremist right-wing parties have seized political power while others have grown closer to gaining power. Along with the growth of these parties, we have witnessed an increase in ethnic, religious, and national tensions in different parts of the world. In India, too, hatred, disgust, and ethnic and religious tensions have spread throughout Indian society since the rise of the extremist Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narenda Modi. In particular, this discrimination has been most against Muslims while many Muslims voted for Narenda Modi in the 2014 elections.

As the differences between Hindus and Muslims are rooted in the history of this country and most of the tensions go back to 1947, when Pakistan seceded from India, many experts see the law as a deliberate plan to perpetuate these historical tensions for the systematic repression of Muslims. In fact, two days before the violence began in New Delhi, a member of Narendra Modi’s cabinet announced that Muslims should be deported to Pakistan. During the crisis over the law, Indian Fisheries Minister Giriraj Singh said: “It is time to commit to building India.” Before 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah tried to form a new Islamic state. We pay the price for the great mistake of our past generations. If Muslims were transferred to Pakistan and Hindus to India at that time, we would not be in this situation (IRNA, 2020).

Evaluation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill at the National Level:

The Indian constitution recognizes ethnic, religious, and racial diversity in the country and has established a pluralistic and multicultural system that has always reflected this image of itself to the world, but laws such as citizenship amendment bill tarnish India’s image as the world’s largest democracy, and instead of a cohesive country with peace and tranquility, it sends a picture of a troubled and fragmented country to the world, and in a way, India suffers a global soft power deficit.

On the other hand, even if the Modi government can manage the tensions that are the product of its own extremist nationalist policies, which seem to have been relatively successful so far, it must be borne in mind that these tensions will have a very negative and destructive effect on the Indian economy, economic growth and development as the Modi government has made every effort to defend India’s economic growth in any way possible as one of its achievements to stay in power.

Evaluating External Reactions to the Bill

As expected, due to civil unrest and numerous wars in the Middle East, we did not see any specific reaction from the Islamic State against the Indian government. The only countries that had protests against the killing of Muslims by the Indian government were Pakistan, Turkey and, Iran. Globally, a new Cold War is taking shape, where India has joined hands with the United States against China. Based on the convergence of interests, Western countries have put the issue of atrocities against Muslims in India at the backburner because of the vested geopolitical, geostrategic and economic interests. On the contrary, these countries have put far greater stress to highlight fake carnages of China against its Uyghur population. It can be safely analyzed that the new alliance structure is not only shielding India internally but externally by engaging and disengaging various governments, international organizations and groups.

1. Hameed, Usama, Footprints of Fascism in India: Implications for Local Muslims, Policy Perspectives, 2020, Vol. 17, No. 2 (2020), pp. 27-46.
2. “Shoot the Traitors” Discrimination Against Muslims under India’s New Citizenship Policy:
3. IRNA News Agency (29/02/2020) Where are the roots of the Delhi violence? Retrievable at:

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