On December 18, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report titled Changes to India’s Citizenship Laws, which presented an overview of the Citizenship Amendment Act and delved into the possible combined impact of the CAA and the proposed nationwide exercise along the lines of Assam’s recently concluded National Register of Citizens (NRC), on India’s Muslim minority population.
The report says, “For the first time in independent India’s history, a religious criterion has been added to the country’s naturalization process. The changes sparked significant controversy, including large-scale and sometimes violent protests. Opponents of the CAA warn that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are pursuing a Hindu majoritarian, anti-Muslim agenda that threatens India’s status as an officially secular republic and violates international human rights norms. In tandem with a National Register of Citizens (NRC) planned by the federal government, the CAA may affect the status of India’s large Muslim minority of roughly 200 million.”
On the subject of the present regime’s apparent supremacist agenda, the report says, “Prime Minister Modi, a self-avowed Hindu nationalist, took office in 2014 after his BJP won the first outright majority in 30 years in the Lok Sabha (the lower chamber of India’s bicameral legislature). That majority was expanded in May 2019 elections, providing an apparent mandate for pursuing Hindu nationalist policy goals. Among these were abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, previously India’s only Muslim-majority state (announced in August 2019 and accomplished in October), and construction of a Hindu temple at the Ayodhya site of a historic mosque destroyed in 1992 (enabled by a long awaited September 2019 Supreme Court ruling).”
Tearing into the CAA’s obvious shortcomings, the report says, “Proponents say that Muslims do not face persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan, and that the CAA is constitutional because it addresses migrants rather than Indian citizens. Yet it is not clear why migrants from other neighboring countries with state (or favored) religions, such as Sri Lanka (where Buddhism is the official religion and Tamil Hindus face persecution) and Burma (where Buddhism enjoys primacy and Rohingya Muslims are persecuted), are excluded from a path to citizenship. In addition, oppressed Muslim minority communities such as Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Shias enjoy no protections under the CAA.”
The report also quotes reports by international agencies condemning the Indian administration for alleged excesses committed against those protesting the CAA, especially students. The report says, “HRW called on Indian authorities to show restraint after reports that police were using excessive force against demonstrators, and said internet shutdowns are a “disproportionate, unnecessary” violation of India’s international legal obligations (an unprecedented internet shutdown in Kashmir of over four months continues). The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists called on police and paramilitary troops to “desist from the use of unlawful force and ill-treatment against demonstrators.” Indian leaders have been unmoved by the demonstrations. At a December 15 rally, Prime Minister Modi said that the opposition’s protests confirmed for him that passage of the CAA was “1,000 percent correct.” Two days later, Home Minister Shah said there was no chance that the CAA would be withdrawn, despite opposition protests.”
The entire report may be read here: