UN says India’s citizenship law discriminatory against Muslims

3 mins read
A protest demonstration against Citizenship Amendment Bill in Ahmedabad.
A protest demonstration against Citizenship Amendment Bill in Ahmedabad.

The human rights office of the United Nations voiced concern that India’s new citizenship law is fundamentally discriminatory in nature by excluding Muslims and called for it to be reviewed.

“We are concerned that India’s new Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 is fundamentally discriminatory in nature,” UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence told a news briefing in Geneva. The new law does not extend the same protection to Muslim migrants as to six other religious minorities fleeing persecution, thereby undermining India’s commitment to equality before the law, enshrined in its constitution, he said.

“We understand the new law will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of India and hope it will consider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations,” Jeremy Laurence said. In India’s national capital, violent clashes erupted between police and university students over the new law, with the unrest leading Japan’s prime minister to cancel a planned visit to India.

POLICE ATTACK JAMIA MILLIA STUDENTS: The new law offers a way to Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan including Hindus and Christians, but not Muslims, which critics say undermines India’s secular foundations. Police fired tear gas and used baton charges to disperse scores of students at the Jamia Millia Islamia in the heart of Delhi.

Protesters attacked cars in the capital, and several people were injured and taken to hospital. Zakir Riyaz, a PhD student in social work, said that the new law made a mockery of India’s religious openness. “It goes against the whole idea of a secular India,” he said, speaking by phone from the Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi where 15 of his fellow students were admitted after being injured in a police baton charge.

Also, two people were killed in India’s Assam state when police opened fire on ‘mobs’ torching buildings and attacking railway stations in protest at the new citizenship rules signed into law on Thursday. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled a trip to Assam for a summit with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that had been due to begin on Sunday.

Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years, which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed in the World War Two.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said both countries would decide on the appropriate timing for the visit although nothing has been decided yet. A movement against immigrants from Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters there say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the state’s resources and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.

Staff Writer

The Wallet Team produces these stories.

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