By Francesca Mele
What India experienced the last months of 2019 has the appearance of a threat for one of the biggest democracies in the world.
In August, Assam, a state in northeast India, was the first Indian state to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with a list that failed to include 1.9 million of citizens, most of them Muslims. It was asked to the citizens to present any documents able to demonstrate the presence on the territory before 1971, requirement which would seem to demonstrate the “Indianess” of residents.
The State government’s declared intention is to detect illegal immigrants who crossed the borders without documents and permission. The last time the register was implemented was after India’s independence in 1951.
On November 20th, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country. It hasn’t been approved yet, but it is added to a recent bill passed on 11th December by the Parliament of India, it could has a deleterious effect. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) offers citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh and fleeing from religious persecution, but not Muslims. It amends Citizenship Act of 1951 causing a nationwide protest prompted by the fear of excluding 200 million Muslim and India secularism. The turmoil caused hitherto 25 deaths.
To reflect on the role of Muslims in India, the Ayodhya dispute (in Uttar Pradesh), concluded on 9th November 2019 even if stretched back to more than a century ago, can be mentioned. The issue hinged on the fact who was the “lawful owner” of a site where a mosque, Babri Masjid, stood before a rally destroyed it and where a Hindu temple was built. It is believed that deity Lord Rama was born here.
This disputed site was the centre of a religious, social and ideological clash that in 1992 led to the death of 2000 people. As a temporary measure, in 2010 Allahabad High Court ruled that the 2.77 acres of land would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, but the final verdict recognised that the land belongs to the government and an Hindu trust will be in charge of building a temple, whereas the counterpart will receive an alternative plot of land.
Let’s remember that India is a signatory State of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, which, at article 13, states that through education, all State parties undertake to “promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups”. But above all, Article 25 in the Constitution of India recognises the “freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion”.
- How will the Hindu-Muslim relationship evolve?
- Is the government making the Hindutva prevail on secularism?
- Is the State openly making some of its inhabitants stateless?
- Will Indian government come to terms with the protesters?