This guest post by M. Mohsin Alam Bhat is reproduced, with permission, from a January 3, 2020 article in The Baffler. A law professor at Jindal Global Law School in Sonipat, Haryana (India), Mohsin is a 2019 alumnus of the ICLRS Religion and the Rule of Law Young Scholars Fellowship program.
On December 11, 2019, the parliament of India voted overwhelmingly to introduce a religious qualification for citizenship. The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) offers all undocumented migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan a route to naturalization, provided they are not Muslim.
The amendment appears to violate the Indian constitution’s most cherished value of equality. Article 14 guarantees that the state cannot pass laws that make unreasonable, irrational, or arbitrary distinctions among persons irrespective of their citizenship. Plainly, the CAA does not fulfill these requirements. The act is also incoherent on the terms the Bharatiya Janata Party administration is trying to sell it by. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proclaimed purpose is to ameliorate the condition of persecuted minorities in the region. If this is the case, there is no obvious rationale for limiting the legislation’s purview to exclude other neighboring countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka and China, where Rohingya Muslims, Tamil Hindus, and Tibetan Buddhists, respectively, have faced terrible persecution (and have historically sought shelter in India). More to the point, there are Muslim sects victimized in the countries covered under the bill—the Ahmadis in Pakistan and Hazaras in Afghanistan—who will not be granted refuge under it.
In any case, there is no good reason why religious persecution, as opposed to persecution on any other ground however severe, should be given special treatment at this specific moment. Each of these reasons renders the law vulnerable to legal challenge. But that has not stopped the government and its partisans from claiming that the law is needed to protect refugees. As for the Muslims left out, they are taken to be illegal migrants. Continue reading “Stateless and Hyperlegalized: The Indian state weaponizes paperwork”