Riots and protests have emerged throughout India over modifications to an existing law, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The changes call for citizenship to be granted to people from three nearby countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, but only if they are from minority religions and fleeing persecution.
The action is being interpreted by some as a direct assault on the political and social strength of the Indian Muslim population, which constitutes just under 15% of the citizenry, and by others as an assault on India’s historical secularism.
Indian groups of various stripes are participating in the protests. Some are the native Muslim population who fear they are being targeted and sidelined. Some are university students and classical liberals, who are attempting to maintain a relative freedom of religion for fear of India becoming an officially Hindu nation. Others are political opponents of the Indian leader seen as the guiding hand behind the new immigration rules, Prime Minister Modi.
The Times of India reports that Modi has directly rebutted the claims of religious targeting, accusing specifically key Congressional opponents of misrepresenting the legislation as a political tool.
“Congress and its allies are creating an atmosphere of fear to scare the Indian Muslims. They’re spreading violence.
Indian Constitution is our only holy book. I appeal to youth in colleges to debate our policies, protest democratically. We will listen to you. But some parties, urban Naxals, are firing off your shoulders.”Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Naxals are a hardline Marxist-Leninist group which exists throughout much of India. They are being accused by Modi’s government of initiating violence amidst the protests, while the protesters are pointing to multiple reported incidents of police brutality.
Six people have died in the clashes, with more than a hundred and seventy-five injured and more than a thousand arrested.