The Indian government recently approved a law that grants citizenship based on religion in what has been described as a violation of India's international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) aims to fasten the citizenship process for religious minorities who came from neighboring countries. For one, some have said this goes against the country's secular constitution with concerns that India is becoming a "Hindu state that treats Muslims as second-class citizens."
For two, the amended law seeks to grant citizenship to "persecuted minorities" from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with the exception of Muslims. This, despite the fact that Muslims make up nearly 15 percent of India's 1.3 billion population.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the passage of the bill in a tweet.
"A landmark day for India and our nation's ethos of compassion and brotherhood," Modi wrote. "This Bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years." But has he forgotten about the suffering of Muslims?
Immigrants who fled from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Bangladesh before 2015 and who belong to Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, or Christianity are eligible for citizenship. Islam is not included. Much of the decision seems to be due to the false rhetoric that all terrorists are Muslim, and all Muslims are terrorists.
"We have to distinguish between the infiltrators and genuine persecuted refugees," said Sudhanshu Trivedi, a spokesman for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, of which Modi is a member of.
"This is the right time for India to assert its security concerns because we are living with neighbors which are the biggest security threats in the entire world."
The measure was approved by a majority of the upper house of India's Parliament on Wednesday. That same day, police in northeast India fired tear gas on protesters following clashes over the controversial bill. The bill is expected to be signed by India's ceremonial president within days, according to The Washington Post.
Following the clashes in northeast India, authorities blocked internet access and imposed curfews in the area.
According to NPR, residents are outraged by the decision and are concerned that this will impact their employment opportunities in the country. That is just one hurdle they may face, noting that the exclusion of Muslims brings much deeper concerns with it as well.
Defending the bill in parliament, Home Minister Amit Shah said, "There is a fundamental difference between a refugee and an infiltrator. This bill is for refugees."
The bill itself is problematic on so many levels including the fact that it "discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law," said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director.