More than 15,000 Canadian citizens stranded in India, including Liberal MP’s mom

And another group of snowbirds not having heeded the government’s response to return quickly but in fairness, the situation has and continues to evolve quickly:

More than 15,000 Canadian passport holders have registered with the Foreign Affairs Department as being stranded in India, and as of Tuesday, the federal government had no repatriation flights scheduled to get them out.

India has closed its airspace and imposed a 21-day lockdown, preventing people from leaving their homes. The new measures come after a spike in cases in recent days. Those who are stuck say the restrictions make it impossible for them to get to the airports in New Delhi and Mumbai.

“We’re frustrated, because we hear how the Canadian government is doing everything they can to get Canadians back, and I can tell you that that is not the case right now,” Ottawa resident Debbie Lavigne said Tuesday.

The federal government said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has been in touch with the Indian government and is working to bring people home, but the details of what is being done aren’t known.The 15,000 number does not account for citizens who have not registered or who are permanent residents — it is estimated there could be thousands more who are trying to return.

Lavigne, who is in Goa, India, said she and her daughter have been calling the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi non-stop and sending emails to Canada’s emergency watch and response centre — at sos@international.gc.ca — but have received no answers.

“We actually managed to get a live person, and they advised us to follow tweets and the news. We just need to be reassured to know that somebody is looking out for us,” she said.

Canadians flock to India in the spring

Spring is a time when thousands of Canadians head to India to visit family and friends, often staying for a month at a time, most typically in the Punjab region. Many of those travelling are elderly, and families at home are concerned about their health.

Ravi Gill, who is working tirelessly with a group of people in Surrey, B.C., to bring people home, said a lot of the older Canadians are insulin-dependent or on other medications but don’t have enough supplies beyond their planned return dates.

“They’re pretty much snowbirds,” Gill said. “Other people go to Arizona, Florida, but a lot of people in our community go to India. It’s difficult for our government to make choices, but we’re asking them to help.”

Gill is trying to lobby the government to do more, but every day, he says, he’s growing more frustrated. He questions why repatriation flights have been sent to other countries with far fewer Canadians stranded, but those in India have been left behind.

“There are young children in our family who are also stuck in India and are terrified at being locked into homes,” he said.

“They have witnessed police using sticks and pulling people off scooters to force them back home. This is a very traumatic experience for them.”

He’s collecting names and information and has started this Facebook page for people seeking help. Canadians are also advised to register with Foreign Affairs.

Surrey MP’s mom also stranded

Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal’s 80-year-old mother is among those stranded in India. Dhaliwal said he, too, is putting pressure on Champagne, but he doesn’t believe it will be easy to bring Canadians home any time soon.

“Because India has shut down the airfield, we are trying to get an access to the airfield, and also the prime minister has talked to the CEO of both airlines, Air Canada as well as WestJet.”Dhaliwal said those who are stuck may need to be patient and wait it out.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear the total country lockdown will be enforced.

“To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family … every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown. We will have to pay the economic cost of this, but [it] is the responsibility of everyone.”

Source: More than 15,000 Canadian citizens stranded in India, including Liberal MP’s mom

UN seek to join legal challenge against India’s citizenship law

Of note:

The U.N. rights chief sought to join efforts challenging the anti-Muslim citizenship law in India’s highest court, after mounting international criticism for failing to protect minority Muslims. Responding to the U.N. move, the Ministry of External Affairs in India, issued a statement, calling the issue of citizenship amendment law “an internal matter.”

“The High Commissioner seeks to intervene as amicus curiae (third party) in this case, by virtue of her mandate to inter alia protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141,” the application said.

Last week, the U.N. High Commissioner had voiced “great concern” over India’s amended citizenship law and reports of “police inaction” in the face of communal attacks in Delhi, urging political leaders to prevent violence.

In December, the U.N. human rights office condemned the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for being “fundamentally discriminatory in nature.”

The Indian capital, New Delhi witnessed the killing of Muslims and the arson of mosques by Hindu mobs during days of violent riots last week. The sectarian violence came as a result of the government’s ongoing anti-Muslim policies. As more than 30 people were killed in New Delhi’s streets, there is fear and anger among Muslims as to why they were punished while prudent Hindus are astonished as they are aware that the sectarian escalation may lead to unwanted results.

Revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the anti-Muslim citizenship law and the building of detention camps for Bengalis in Assam are the first steps of the current Indian government to create a purified India based on Hindu identity.

Source: UN seek to join legal challenge against India’s citizenship law

India: UK expresses concerns over potential impact of Citizenship Act and it’s effects

Contrast with Trump administration:

The UK government has reiterated its concern over the potential impact of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and said it is continuing to follow the events in India closely.

In response to an urgent question on ‘Recent Violence in India’ tabled by Pakistani-origin Opposition Labour Party MP Khalid Mahmood in the House of Commons on Tuesday, UK’s Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Nigel Adams said the UK engages with India at all levels, including on human rights, and also referred to the country’s “proud history” of inclusive government and religious tolerance.

“The UK government also have concerns about the potential impact of the legislation (CAA),” said Adams, the Minister for Asia who was standing in for UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is on a visit to Turkey.

“It is because of our close relationship with the government of India that we are able to discuss difficult issues with them and make clear our concerns where we have them, including on the rights of minorities.

“We will continue to follow events closely and to raise our concerns when we have with them,” said the minister.

While Mahmood, who had tabled the urgent question for an FCO statement, described the government response as “facile”, another Pakistani-origin MP Nusrat Ghani called on the government to relay the UK Parliament’s concerns to the Indian authorities.

British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said the violence had brought back “painful personal memories” from the 1984 Sikh riots while he was studying in India and fellow Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill also referenced 1984 in her intervention.

Other MPs sought to highlight the steps taken by the Indian authorities to restore “peace and tranquillity” in Delhi.

“He will be aware that it is not just Muslims who have been killed; Hindus have also been killed as part of the riots,” said Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman.

Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Alyn Smith sought the UK government’s intervention to share best practice around countering the online disinformation campaign being used in India to “inflame tensions”.

“We are in constant contact on these issues, and we know how important this is to Members of Parliament and their constituents, who may have family in the area,” said Adams, in his response.

Source: UK expresses concerns over potential impact of Citizenship Act and it’s effects

India: CAA enacted to create religious test of citizenship, says new US commission factsheet

Of note:

A new legislative document by a US federal panel alleges that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is part of an effort by the Indian government to create a religious test for citizenship.

In a factsheet issued on Wednesday the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that after the passage of the citizenship law large scale protests had broken out across India.

“Quickly after the CAA’s passage, large scale protests broke out across India with the government instituting a violent crackdown against the protestors. In conjunction with a proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens, there are fears that this law is part of an effort to create a religious test for Indian citizenship and could lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of Indian Muslims,” USCIRF said.

The CAA grants citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, who came to India on or before December 31, 2014. Protests have erupted across the country against the contentious CAA since Parliament gave its nod to the Bill last year.

The USCIRF had then condemned the then Bill terming it as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction” and sought US sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah “and other principal Indian leadership” if the with the “religious criterion” is passed by both houses of Parliament.
India had condemned the “inaccurate” and “unwarranted” comments made by USCIRF and said that the Act aims at providing expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from “contiguous” countries.

Source: CAA enacted to create religious test of citizenship, says new US commission factsheet

ICYMI: Modi Lost in Delhi. It Doesn’t Matter. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party have ensured that no political parties speak about equal citizenship and political rights of the country’s Muslims.

One take on the Delhi election results:

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a major defeat in elections for the Delhi state legislature. Amit Shah, the prime minister’s confidante and the country’s home minister, led a highly divisive and sectarian campaign foregrounding Hindu nationalism and demonizing the city’s Muslims, and tried to paint the opposition Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders as treasonous.

Yet out of Delhi’s 70 seats, Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah’s B.J.P. won a mere eight seats, and the A.A.P., led by Arvind Kejriwal, who has been the chief minister of Delhi since 2015, won 62.

Mr. Kejriwal, an anti-graft activist turned politician, focused the electoral campaign of his party on his record of governance — the significant improvement he made to the delivery of services in public hospitals, the quality of education and infrastructure in schools, and the cost of electricity in Delhi.

Delhi chose Mr. Kejriwal for his performance as chief minister. While the B.J.P. plastered Mr. Modi’s face across the city, it did not offer any candidates for the Delhi state government who were more impressive or convincing than Mr. Kejriwal and his team.

Mr. Modi and his party might have lost an election but they won the ideological battle by setting the terms of electoral politics: For electoral success in India, it is no longer acceptable to speak about equal citizenship and political rights of India’s Muslims or speak out against the violence and hostility they encounter.

The election in Delhi was held while India has been witnessing continuous protests against a citizenship law passed by Mr. Modi’s government in December that makes religion the basis for citizenship. The new law discriminates against Muslims and advances the Hindu nationalist agenda of reshaping India into a majoritarian Hindu nation.

Mr. Shah, the home minister, had insisted the citizenship law would be followed by a National Register of Citizens, or N.R.C., which would require citizens to submit a set of documents to prove they are Indians. India’s Muslims and liberals worried that the citizenship register would become a tool to exclude or threaten to exclude Indian Muslims from citizenship.

Over the past two months, protests against the citizenship law and the impending N.R.C. spread across the country, from university campuses to poor Muslim neighborhoods, from distant border states to starry avenues of Bollywood.

On Dec. 15, the police in Delhi, which reports to Mr. Modi’s government, violently attacked students at Jamia Millia Islamia, a university with a large number of Muslim students. After the police assault, women from Shaheen Bagh, a working-class, mostly Muslim neighborhood adjacent to university, gathered in protest against the citizenship law and blocked a major road passing through the area. A tent was set up on the road and the protest quickly took on the air of a defiant carnival.

The numbers swelled and every kind of Indian opposed to the citizenship law gathered at Shaheen Bagh in solidarity. Two bitter winter months have passed; the women continue their protest despite the cold and the attacks by Hindu nationalist activists.

Throughout the Delhi election campaign, Mr. Modi’s party targeted Shaheen Bagh and sought to frighten the city’s Hindus by emphasizing the Muslim-ness of the protesters. Islamophobic rhetoric has been normalized in Mr. Modi’s India, but the Delhi campaign intensified it. Mr. Shah, who is also the president of the B.J.P., set the tone when he asked his supporters to push the button against the B.J.P. electoral symbol on the electronic voting machines so hard that the (mostly Muslim) protesters in Shaheen Bagh would “feel the current.”

At a Delhi election rally, Anurag Thakur, Mr. Shah’s colleague and India’s minister of state for finance, raised a sinister slogan: “These traitors of the nation! Shoot them!” A few days later, two Hindu nationalist activists opened fire on students and protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia and in Shaheen Bagh.

Parvesh Varma, a member of the Parliament from Mr. Modi’s party, sought to whip up Hindu fears by describing the Shaheen Bagh protesters as murderers and rapists: “They will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters, and kill them. There is time today. Modi Ji and Amit Shah won’t come to save you tomorrow.” Other leaders from the party likened Shaheen Bagh to Pakistan and framed the Delhi election as a contest between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Kejriwal spoke against the citizenship law, calling it a distraction from Mr. Modi’s failure on the economy, but assiduously avoided confronting the Hindu nationalist rhetoric during the elections and ignored the attacks on Muslims.

When the police entered Jamia Milia Islamia and attacked the students, Mr. Kejriwal stayed silent for several days. When asked about the protests in Delhi, he declared that he would have cleared the road through Shaheen Bagh in two hours if the police in Delhi, which reports to the federal government, were under his control.

To emphasize his being a Hindu, Mr. Kejriwal publicly sang Hindu religious prayers and visited a temple soon after his victory speech. Essentially, he worked around the boundaries set by the Hindu nationalists and embraced a softer version of their politics.

The Delhi election suggests that India has entered an era where the ideological terms and the language of politics are set by the Hindu nationalists. To be electorally competitive, political parties will need to adhere to some variant of the Hindu nationalism and jingoism exemplified by Mr. Modi.

The “Modi consensus” has ensured that India’s Muslims are not only politically powerless but also politically invisible. Seventy-three years after independence, India’s Muslims are still fighting for equal citizenship. We are now putting our lives on the line, not to gain parity in jobs and education but to hold on to legal equality.

The protests against the new citizenship law have the air of a final cry to salvage our dignity before we are made second-class citizens, or worse, noncitizens.

In an election, while most citizens vote for material benefits and aspirations, India’s Muslims are reduced to voting for their security. Despite Mr. Kejriwal and his A.A.P.’s sidestepping the issues concerning Muslims, Delhi’s Muslims overwhelminglybacked his party because it is not actively hostile to them.

To interpret defeat of Mr. Modi’s party in Delhi with his project of Hindu majoritarianism would be a grave misreading of the verdict. In a recent survey, four-fifths of Delhi’s voters favored Mr. Modi and three-fourths of Delhi’s voters expressed satisfaction with his federal government.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kejriwal’s model of good governance and service delivery while ignoring the contentious sectarian and militant nationalist positions of the Hindu nationalists can be replicated outside the relatively small, urban state of Delhi.

Since its inception, the Hindu nationalist movement, of which the B.J.P. is the electoral branch, had a single goal: Hindu supremacy. There are no politicians who have the gumption to challenge Mr. Modi and his B.J.P. on that central vision. Mr. Modi and his party might lose the occasional election but they have won the ideological war.

Source: Modi Lost the Delhi Election. It Doesn’t Matter.

From India to US, a citizenship crisis is burning across the world

Dispiriting reading:

Across the world, there are fires burning and they are not only climate-change induced or climate threatening. The concept of who is a citizen of a nation and what are their rights has become a burning topic.

Under President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilians who are Amazonian Indians are increasingly under threat. In Bolivia, the fall of leader Evo Morales has disenfranchised indigenous Bolivians. Many living under US President Donald Trump are worried about their lives and the well-being of their families, and fear deportation despite being an integral part of American socioeconomics.

As Brexit looms, there is trepidation among many Europeans who have made Britain their home. The Roma in many parts of Europe continue to face persecution from their governments.

There are upheavals in the middle economies of the world too, with millions in Hong Kong and tens of millions in India facing an uncertain future. The unfulfilled obligations in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong government’s increasing coordination with Beijing has unsettled many citizens of the special administrative region.

In India, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has decided to implement a two-pronged strategy which threatens the country’s secular ethos. This government’s amendment of a 1955 citizenship act grants citizenship to refugees from neighbouring countries belonging to religions other than Islam. This legislation has been amended in the past to limit citizenship to those having at least one Indian parent and, later, to the parent not being an illegal immigrant.

Simultaneously, there is a plan to conduct a biblically inspired National Register of Citizens which will be the arbiter on the citizenship of each Indian. Though the implementation of both or either is perceived as targeting Muslims, the collateral damage will be in the millions because many people do not have, or have insufficient, documents to prove their citizenship.

Source: From India to US, a citizenship crisis is burning across the world

The 2010s’ grim legacy: the decade of the far right

Of note, and Canada to date remains an exception:

The past decade was the decade of the far right.

In January 2010, leftist and centrist politicians led three of the largest democracies in the world: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil), Manmohan Singh (India) and Barack Obama (US). In December 2019, all three countries have far-right leaders: Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. In Europe, center-left parties have been decimated, while mainstream right parties mainly survive by adopting frames and policies from the radical right. Only Germany still has the same center-right leader, Angela Merkel, but that will probably change in the next year, too.

This political sea change is in large part the (delayed) consequence of demographic, economic and social shifts. After 9/11, the political debate in many countries shifted from socio-economic to socio-cultural issues. Even the Great Recession only changed this temporarily; once the dust over the bailouts had settled, immigration and security quickly replaced austerity and economic inequality as defining issues once again.

Source: The 2010s’ grim legacy: the decade of the far right

Articles of interest over the holidays – India’s Citizenship Act

Northern India’s Uttar Pradesh has been the worst affected in the ongoing protests against a controversial new citizenship law. At least 19 people have died in the state since protests began on 20 December. The BBC’s Vikas Pandey travels to the region to find out why it has witnessed such large-scale and violent protests.

The extremely narrow lanes of Babupurwa in Kanpur city lead me to Mohammed Shareef’s home.

He is sitting outside the small tin-roof house. It has just one room which doubles as a kitchen during the day and bedroom at night. He gets up, hugs me and breaks down. Several minutes pass in silence.

“I have lost everything. I have no will to live. What was my son’s fault? Why did the police shoot him?” he says trying to hold back tears.

Source: Citizenship Act protests: Why fear has gripped Muslims in this Indian state

Protests against a new citizenship law in India risk making investors wary of doing business in Asia’s third-largest economy.

At least 25 people have been killed in nationwide demonstrations against the new rules enacted into law earlier this month. The law bars undocumented Muslims from three neighboring nations seeking Indian citizenship, while allowing people of other faiths to do so.

Source: Protests Against India’s Citizenship Law Risk Spooking Investors Away

As India’s new citizenship law seeks to create a stratified citizenship based on religion, a large number of Indians opposing it are emerging as a people of one book, the country’s Constitution, which came into force on Jan. 26, 1950.

In the past two weeks, diverse crowds across the country have responded to the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, referred to as the C.A.A., passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government by chanting the preamble to the Constitution of India, with its promises of social, political and economic justice, freedom of thought, expression and belief, equality and fraternity.

Student protesters being herded into police vans, opposition leaders standing outside the Indian Parliament and ebullient crowds of tens of thousands in Hyderabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai have read aloud the preamble and held aloft copies of the Constitution and portraits of B.R. Ambedkar, its chief draftsman.

The C.A.A. offers an accelerated pathway to citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but excludes Muslims. It effectively creates a hierarchical system of citizenship determined by an individual’s religion, reminiscent of Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which privileged citizenship for “indigenous races,” excluded the Rohingya and paved the ground for the genocidal violence against them.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/27/opinion/india-constitution-protests.html

The recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, carves out a special pathway to citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from some countries. This sort of discrimination against Muslims is popularly thought of as being a relatively recent phenomenon. However, at the founding of India’s republic, the citizenship provisions of the Constitution also discriminated against Muslim immigrants and ma

The Permit System

After the partition of the country, two waves of immigration occurred from West Pakistan to India. In the first wave, which started from March 1, 1947, large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs arrived here. In the second wave in 1948, many Indian Muslims who had migrated to West Pakistan sought to return to India because of poor conditions there, especially in Karachi. This second wave

In April 1948, Nehru acknowledged that the “influx … of Muslims to Delhi and other parts of India from Pakistan has raised certain difficulties”. The following month, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to Nehru that there was “considerable discontent” among the public in general and refugees in particular about the Indian government’s “failure to prevent the inflow of Muslims from Pakistan.” The return of “these Muslims”, he explained, “while we are not yet able to rehabilitate Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan… would again be the breeding ground of communal poison, on which activities of organisation[s] like the RSS thrive.” He believed that returning Indian Muslims were “a great source of danger to the peace and security of Delhi”. Nehru replied and said that this was an “undoubtedly serious” matter.

It was against this backdrop that the Indian government introduced a system on July 19, 1948, under which no person could move from West Pakistan into India without a permit issued by the Indian high commission in Karachi or Lahore.

Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/citizenship-amendment-act-the-unsecular-origins-of-indian-citizenship-by-abhinav-chandrachud

At 24, Indian transgender Ray has already had to fight many battles for recognition and now faces a new threat – losing her citizenship because of controversial new legislation.

The Delhi-based law student – whose official documents identify her as male – is among tens of thousands of people protesting against the legislation and a mooted nationwide citizens’ register, worried that it will render transgender Indians like herself stateless.

Her fears are not unfounded. In September this year, a petition was filed in India’s Supreme Court after around 2,000 transgenders were left off a citizens’ register in the northeastern state of Assam, throwing their future into doubt.

Despite being legally recognised as a third gender in a historic 2014 Supreme Court ruling, they often live on the extreme fringes of Indian society, with many forced into prostitution, begging or menial jobs.

For a community that already faces severe discrimination in conservative India – much of it from their own families – transgenders feel they are at extra risk from legislation pushed by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed ostensibly at tackling illegal immigration.

Source: India’s transgenders face losing citizenship with new law

The Guardian view on Modi’s citizenship law: dangerous for all

Good commentary:

Thousands nationwide have protested against India’s new citizenship law in recent days, facing a brutal police response. This is arguably the biggest display of opposition to Narendra Modi since he took power six years ago, and for good reason. Demonstrators have been urged into action not by the sense of a new direction being established, but of the confirmation of the country’s alarming trajectory. The legislation is the proof that Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist project is not a containable anomaly, but an enterprise that threatens the nation’s very foundations of pluralism and secularism. Fear overshadows the hopes of that seven-decade endeavour.

The prime minister has piously tweeted: “This is the time to maintain peace, unity and brotherhood.” Superficially this is, as the BJP government claims, a law that expands rather than removes rights. It creates a fast-track path to citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsees and Christians arriving from Muslim-majority states, who would otherwise spend years labelled as illegal immigrants. But no one considering either its text or context could seriously regard this as a measure of inclusion. It is inherently one of exclusion, which discriminates against Muslims fleeing persecution, and signals that Muslim citizens are not “truly” Indian. It undermines constitutional protections which apply to foreigners as well as citizens in India.

Source: The Guardian view on Modi’s citizenship law: dangerous for all

And an upcoming court challenge:

India’s controversial religion-based citizenship act will have to pass the scrutiny of the nation’s top court, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pledged to push ahead and implement the law.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A.Bobde issued a notice to the government seeking its response. The court agreed to examine the legality of the legislation following more than 50 petitions filed by activists, lawyers, student groups, Muslim bodies, and politicians from across the country. The court will next hear the case on Jan. 22 and may decide in January if the law should be stayed, Bobde said.

The move may calm protesters who have called the law discriminatory because it bars undocumented Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh from seeking citizenship but allows Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians who migrated from these regions to do so. On Tuesday, Home Minister Amit Shah, who shepherded the Citizenship Amendment Act through the Parliament last week, defended it and ruled out any possibility of repealing the law.

“When the country was divided on the basis of religion and the minorities are being persecuted there in the name of religion, then will you not give them your citizenship?” Shah said in comments broadcast on Times Now, referring to the partition of India in 1947. “Where will they go?”

Stateless Risks

The new law is seen as a precursor to Shah’s plan to implement a nationwide citizens register to weed out illegal migrants.

Demonstrations first began in the eastern state of Assam where there are fears the new law would allow an influx of migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Some 1.9 million people in Assam — many of them Muslims — risk losing their Indian citizenship after the state enforced the citizens register in August.

Anger soon spread across many parts of India, including the capital New Delhi, over fears it would damage India’s traditional secular ethos enshrined in its Constitution that treats all religions on par.

Meanwhile, police stormed university campuses across the country this week to quell the protests, which have so far been led largely by students of all faiths.

“This isn’t about religion, this is about justice,” said Neha Sareen, a 22-year-old student at Tuesday’s protests outside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, which faced the worst police crackdown. “The law is against the constitution of India. It discriminates against fellow citizens.”

Repeal Demands

Protesters remain firm on their demand for a repeal of the act, said Shifa Ur Rehman Khan, president of Jamia university’s alumni association. Yet, the government has shown no signs of backing down on the bill. On Tuesday, Shah said no Indian citizen of any faith need worry about the citizenship rules.

The government is now turning its attention to building a temple for the Hindu warrior god Ram on the site of a demolished mosque in northern India, after the country’s top court gave a verdict in the favor of Hindu groups last month.

If the protests continue to gather steam there are fears it will distract the government from its economic problems and undermine efforts to attract foreign investment. Asia’s third-biggest economy is growing at its slowest pace in more than six years and unemployment is the highest in more than four decades.

Shah told industry leaders in Mumbai on Tuesday that the Modi government is working toward fixing a temporary economic slowdown and that it should recover ground in three quarters. Shah, whose interview was broadcast at the Times Network India Economic Conclave in Mumbai, got support from at least one executive.

“The idea of a strong India is important and it is sad that the students are getting sucked into politics,” said Sajjan Jindal, chairman of JSW Steel Ltd.before Shah’s speech. “This law will protect the country from illegal immigrants.”

The last time Shah addressed business leaders in Mumbai billionaire Rahul Bajaj spoke to say corporate India was hesitant about criticizing the current government.

Source: Supreme Court to Examine Contentious India Citizenship Law

UN Rights Official Urges India to Scrap New Citizenship Law

Of note:

The Office of the U.N.’s top human rights official is urging India to scrap its new Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which it says discriminates against Muslims.

Violent protests erupted in the Indian states of Assam and Tripura in the wake of last week’s passage of India’s new citizenship law, killing three people and Injuring many others, including police officers.

The U.N. human rights office says it deplores the government’s brutal crackdown on those protesting the enactment of the law, which it calls fundamentally discriminatory.  The amended legislation grants citizenship rights to six religious minorities fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But human rights spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, says the law does not extend the same protection to Muslims.

“The amended law would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution and India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the elimination of Racial Discrimination, to which India is a state party,” he said.

Laurence says India’s Citizenship Act could violate these international covenants, which prohibit racial, ethnic or religious discrimination.

“Although India’s broader naturalization laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality.  All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to respect, protection and fulfillment of their human rights,”  he said.

A Muslim political party along with lawyers and rights groups have challenged the law in India’s Supreme Court, arguing that it violates the country’s secular constitution. The U.N. human rights office says it hopes the justices will consider whether the law is compatible with India’s international human rights obligations.

Source: UN Rights Official Urges India to Scrap New Citizenship Law

Meanwhile, riots and demonstrations continue in parts of India:

Furious protests against a new citizenship bill continued to erupt across India on Monday, provoking a harsh security response and presenting the most widespread challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power five years ago.

On Sunday, police officers stormed a predominantly Muslim university in New Delhi, the capital, beating up dozens of students and firing tear gas into a library where young people had sought refuge.

The protests have gripped many major Indian cities and are a reaction to the Indian Parliament’s decision last week to pass a contentious measure that would give special treatment to Hindu and other non-Muslim migrants in India. Critics have called the measure blatantly discriminatory and a blow to India’s foundation as a secular democracy.

The legislation is a core piece of a Hindu-centric agenda pursued by Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, and many analysts predicted trouble. India’s large Muslim minority, around 200 million people, has become increasingly fearful, certain that many of Mr. Modi’s recent initiatives are intended to marginalize them.