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Protests erupt over controversial citizenship law in India

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Protests erupt over controversial citizenship law in India

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Photo: AP Photo/Anupam Nath

Violent protests are expected to continue in New Delhi and other Indian cities today over a controversial citizenship bill that was signed into law on December 12. The law provides a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants of religious minorities, except Muslims.

The protests have forced the cancellation of a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe originally scheduled for today.

Protesters in the capital fear the law undermines India’s secularism—a key tenet of its post-independence—by denying Muslim refugees the same rights to citizenship as others who fled persecution in neighbouring countries. Additionally, protesters in border provinces like Assam fear the law allows unfettered immigration of Hindus into the region, threatening their indigenous cultures.

Expect protests to continue and at least five states with large Muslim populations to refuse to implement the law. Several petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law but are likely to take months to resolve.

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Modi is unlikely to backdown at this stage. He has considerable political backing among the Hindu-majority and strong parliamentary support for this law. However, unless the law is ruled unconstitutional by the Judiciary, religious unrest and violent protests are likely to increase amid Muslim fears of further state-sponsored discrimination under Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

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