Secular India?

Unfortunately, it is now abundantly clear that India’s government cares little for what the world thinks


Editorial December 11, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to take India away from its secular roots with another attempt to oppress Muslims. India’s lower house of parliament on Monday passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) after hours of intense debate. The bill reintroduced in the assembly by Home Minister Amit Shah allows Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before 2015. Opponents of the bill say it discriminates against Muslims and violates India’s secular constitution. The bill was first introduced in 2016, during Modi’s first term, but lapsed due to lack of support from the ruling coalition. One of the odd outcomes of the assembly debate on the bill was Home Minister Amit Shah’s full-throated defence of Christians. He noted that they were an oppressed minority in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. What made it odd was that this was the first time in his political career that he has shown concern for Christians, who regularly get beaten, robbed, raped and murdered by Hindutva fanatics in India.

India has erupted in protests and the intelligentsia has issued a statement calling for the withdrawal of the bill which they fear “will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country”. The ruling Bahartiya Janata Party (BJP) had enough seats in Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, to get the bill passed. But while they are a few seats short in Rajya Sabha, the upper house, a home minister accused of murder, kidnapping and extortion, and ‘disappearing’ witnesses would surely be able to convince a few members to see things his way. Even the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has said that the bill is a “dangerous turn in wrong direction” and has sought American sanctions against Shah and other “principal leadership” if the bill passes into law. “CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction [which] runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” USCIRF said.

Unfortunately, it is now abundantly clear that India’s government cares little for what the world thinks.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2019.

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