Shia Rights Watch Criticizes Unfair Lawsuit in India

On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, Indian lawmakers approved an amendment to the nation’s Citizenship Law which allows the illegal migrants, who have fled religious persecution and lived in India for five years to apply for citizenship. The adopted changes ease immigration for thousands of migrants and for the first time in Indian history, create a provision for religious identity to serve as a basis for granting citizenship. While the bill sounds hopeful, its contents are far from inclusive. Despite the bills aim to establish India as a refuge against religious prosecution, the bill raises concerns about discrimination within the nation against Muslim residents. The bill specifically eases naturalization for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian individuals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, while ignoring the multitude of other minority religions and identities. India is home to 200 million native Muslims and millions of Muslim migrants who have thus far played an active role in promoting diversity in the nation. However, in recent years, anti-Muslim rhetoric sponsored by the State has flooded the nation. Moreover, the lack of justice and anti-violence enforcement by the government encourages targeted attacks. In 2016 alone, 86 individuals were killed and 2321 people were killed as a result of 700 incidents of communal violence. As it pertains to Shia Muslims, the bill has dangerous implications. Already a targeted group, the new bill excludes Shia groups such as the Hazara from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan- all countries included in the bill. Exclusions of the Shia from the bill is a vehement display of biased policy as these groups have been established as endangered minorities in their native nations. As for Shia native to India, many may be expelled to nations in which their lives are targeted by active anti-Shiism. Shia Rights Watch calls for reconsideration in the content of the bill such that it is inclusive to any group that is at risk in the region as defined by the international community. Moreover, India is a multi-cultural and multi-religious nation and it must be noted that there exist minority religious groups under attack within the country. Efforts at the legislative level of society must be made to promote peaceful coexistence and justice for those who are violently targeted based on their religious identity within India.