Issue Brief on “Citizenship Amendment Act: India’s Losing Grip on Secularism”

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With the Lok Sabha elections in India drawing closer, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s political communication – which is largly focused on anti-Muslim rhetoric and practices – is getting sharper. The BJP government issued rules for the discrimonatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on 11 March 2024. The Act aims to grant Indian citizenship to immigrants who fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh before 31 December 2014. This citizenship offer is only limited to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.[1]

The CAA is an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 which was amended earlier as well in 1986, 1992, 2013, and 2015. The latest amendment was first presented by the BJP in 2016, but due to lack of majority, the measure could not get parliament’s approval. In January 2019, a Parliamentary committee report said that around 31,313 illegal immigrants entered India before 31 December 2014.  In December 2019, the Act was passed by the Parliament (lower and upper house), which led to severe protests across the country.[2] The Act was opposed by not just Muslims but other groups as well, especially in the North Eastern States of India where it is believed that the immigrant population will dominate the native population causing socio-cultural impacts. Student committees of Jamia Millia Islamia organized several protests which met severe responses from the government. More than 200 pleas were also filed against the Act. Because of the social unrest against the CAA that resulted in more than 100 deaths, the BJP could not proceed further on the Act in 2019.

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