On-going protests against India’s divisive citizenship law have been further driven by the Hindu nationalist government declaring it will conduct a census and a population survey this year.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been ongoing for more than three weeks. As many as 25 people have been killed in clashes with police.
Demonstrations across the country began after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government-approved the law on Dec. 11.
The new law provides a path to citizenship for Buddhist, Christian Hindu, Jain, Parsi, and Sikh practitioners, but not Muslims, fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Muslims make up 200 million of India’s 1.3 billion people.
Adding fuel to the fire, the government, just prior to Christmas, approved funds for the National Population Register (NPR) a comprehensive identity database of everyone living in India. The NPR would require every person in the country prove their citizenship.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Bombay, said the government should consider backtracking on both the CAA and NRC.
“Religion should never be made a dividing factor,” Cardinal Gracias said in a press statement.
Students, writers, activists, civil service groups and others have likewise been calling on the government scrap the CAA and NRC.
“They are both unconstitutional, Islam phobic and discriminatory,” said human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, an NGO.
Binu Mathew, editor at Countercurrents.org, said the government’s actions undermine the country’s Constitution which he described as the bulwark of India’s democracy.
“The Constitution protects the diversity of the republic. It also ensures justice for religious minority communities,” Mathew said.
“Under Hindu nationalists and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rule, the Constitution is being sabotaged. CAA is the first step in this direction. It is heartening to see that people coming out in large numbers to defend the constitution,” he said.