Why Did India Pass a Citizenship Bill that Excludes Muslims?

The government of India passed legislation in December 2019 that would create a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants. It fast-tracked the ability to gain the rights and privileges of naturalization based on a person’s religion.

India is certainly not the first to raise eyebrows with changing in policy. China’s social credit system is an example of a policy that is part of an ongoing discussion.

What makes this policy stand out is that Islam is excluded from the list of eligibility.

Anyone who came to the country from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan before 2015 would be eligible for this program, regardless of their faith. The people who moved to India after that deadline must belong to one of South Asia’s major religions, as described by the government.

The reason for the exclusion seems hidden in the words of government officials like Sudhanshu Trivedi, who is the spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party. “We have to distinguish between the infiltrators and genuine persecuted refugees,” he said during the bill’s passage. “This is the right time for India to assert its security concerns because we are living with neighbors that are the biggest security threats in the entire world.”

What Does the Path to Citizenship Entail?

The exclusion of Islam comes because the goal of the government was to protect those who come from minority religions in the region that face discrimination.

Article 9 of the Indian constitution requires anyone who voluntarily acquires citizenship from another country to surrender their rights in India.

Being 100% legal isn’t always easy. Just ask some of the world’s top hemp brands, like Charlotte’s Web and Hempfusion, that face restrictions in India and around the world. Even companies that manufacture liquid herbal extracts like Herb Pharm face segregation from the marketplace because their ingredients are “different” from what society finds to be “acceptable.”

When unequal paths to citizenship exist, then a country is no longer united. History teaches us that a divided culture is one that will eventually fall. 

The other issue under consideration with the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 is that it recasts India as a majority Hindu nation. That means anyone who falls outside of that spiritual spectrum automatically becomes a second-class citizen. 

Anyone who enters India without a valid travel document or remained beyond their visa will now be ineligible to apply for citizenship. Muslims with similar origins to Christians, Parsi, Jain, Sikh, or Buddhism will not gain the same fast-tracking rights.

Our planet is healthy when we celebrate diversity. If we can encourage this approach in daily life, then there is nothing that can stop us from being at our best.