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India implements 'controversial' citizenship law ahead of general elections

India implements 'controversial' citizenship law ahead of general elections

R.T Protests erupted in India after a controversial new citizenship law came into force on Monday. The measure grants fast-track citizenship to illegal immigrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seeks to halve residency requirements for citizenship for eligible immigrants from 12 years to six. It is likely that about 30,000 people will be naturalized under this scheme.

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It was initially approved in December 2019, months after Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party won its second consecutive election. Before the initial vote in Parliament, widespread protests broke out in India's northeastern states, which share a border with Bangladesh, and which are particularly opposed to illegal immigration.

Protests also broke out across the country after the bill was passed, with critics questioning why Muslims were not mentioned. The decision to implement the law comes weeks before a general election that the BJP is widely expected to win, meaning Modi is ready to return as prime minister for a third term.

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After the law was announced to come into effect, protests were reported in areas including the city of Guwahati in Assam, the initial epicenter of the unrest, according to RT.

Explaining the previous hurdle in introducing the law, the Indian Home Ministry said it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Constitution of India gives us the right to provide asylum to religiously persecuted refugees with basic rights and grant citizenship from a humanitarian perspective,” she said in a statement. It also launched a portal where eligible people can register for citizenship.

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Opposition parties strongly opposed the CAA and renewed their attacks on the Modi-led government on Monday, questioning the timing of the notification.

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Jairam Ramesh, a prominent figure in Congress, India's largest opposition party, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that the law is “designed to polarize elections.” Pinarayi Vijayan, a member of the Communist Party of India and chief minister of Kerala, insisted that the CAA would not be allowed to be implemented in the region.

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“Give asylum to anyone who is being persecuted, but citizenship should not be on the basis of religion or nationality,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party. “The CAA only targets Muslims.”

The Modi government has committed to enacting the Citizenship Amendment Act, arguing that India is the natural home of all “oppressed” Hindus. Earlier, the administration fulfilled two of its major pre-poll promises – abrogating Article 370, which gave special status to the Jammu and Kashmir region, and building a temple dedicated to Lord Ram on the site of a demolished mosque in Ayodhya. , Uttar Pradesh state.