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Indian right demands a racist election

The governing Hindu chauvinist BJP party ramps up racism before upcoming election
Issue 2897
Left activists in India demand rights for the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir (Picture: CPIML Liberation)

Left activists in India demand rights for the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir (Picture: CPIML Liberation)

Will the coming Indian general election be its most racist ever? The governing Hindu chauvinist BJP party certainly hopes so.

Last week it unleashed a hated law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), that deliberately targets the country’s more than 200 million Muslims.

Working in conjunction with a national citizens database, it aims to deny or revoke Muslim’s Indian citizenship— effectively making them stateless.

The government had paused the law after widespread rioting greeted its passing through the Lok Sabha parliament in 2019.

But home minister Amit Shah last week announced that it will now come into force. The timing is hardly coincidental.

India is set to go to the polls in the next few weeks. The CAA is a vicious law that claims to target “illegal migrants” so that they can be jailed or deported.

But its further purpose is to legally separate Indian Muslims from Hindus and others.

It amends an existing law that says a person must have lived in India for at least 11 years before they can even apply for citizenship.

Now there will be an exception for members of six religious’ groups—Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians—if they can prove they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh.

They must prove they’ve lived in India for just six years before being eligible for citizenship.

Persecuted Muslims who have fled to India in recent decades, including the Rohingya from neighbouring Myanmar and members of targeted religious sects in Pakistan, will have no such rights.

But the CAA is far more dangerous than even that.

It is designed to work in tandem with another racist endeavour—the National Register of Citizens (NRC)— that’s yet to come into force nationwide.

The NRC aims to be a record of all Indian citizens. It became law in 2003 but has so far only been used in specific states.

In theory it would ask everyone in India to prove their citizenship.

Protects In reality the only people that would have to prove themselves would be Muslims because the CAA now protects members of other religious minorities from jail or deportation.

Like millions of other poor people, many Indian-born Muslims do not have official documents that confirm their citizenship, nor their family’s history in the country.

The law will create a vast pool of “undocumented” people living under permanent threat.

And it will turn even Muslims who’ve lived in what today constitutes India for more than a thousand years into second class citizens.

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