India cabinet backs bill to criminalise Islamic instant divorce – BBC

Welcome. However, enforcement will likely be a challenge:

The Indian cabinet has backed a bill that will make the Islamic practice of instant divorce a criminal offence.

The bill proposes jail of up to three years for a Muslim man who indulges in the controversial practice.

The government hopes to get the bill passed by parliament in the winter session, which began on Friday.

In a major victory for women’s rights activists, the Supreme Court outlawed the “triple talaq” practice in August and called it “un-Islamic”.

India is one of a handful of countries where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

Muslim women and rights groups have been campaigning for years against the custom.

Campaigners have described it as humiliating and discriminatory.

The bill, called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, has been drafted by a group of ministers, led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The Indian government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has supported ending the practice.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought up the issue several times, including in his Independence Day address on 15 August.

What is instant divorce?

There have been cases in which Muslim men in India have divorced their wives by issuing the so-called triple talaq by letter, telephone and, increasingly, by text message, WhatsApp and Skype. A number of these cases made their way to the courts as women contested the custom.

Triple talaq divorce has no mention in Sharia Islamic law or the Koran, even though the practice has existed for decades.

Islamic scholars say the Koran clearly spells out how to issue a divorce – it has to be spread over three months, allowing a couple time for reflection and reconciliation.

Most Islamic countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq, but the custom has continued in India, which does not have a uniform set of laws on marriage and divorce that apply to every citizen.



Trump has started a brain drain back to India

Positive impact for Canada:

So many [foreign hi-tech] workers have been frustrated that attorney Brent Renison sought class-action status for a lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court in Portland. He argued, in part, that the H-1B lottery was arbitrary and capricious. The suit asked the court to order the government to process visa petitions in the order they are filed and compel the government to establish a waitlist like the one used for green card petitions. The government prevailed.

“Some people are moving out of the country, taking valuable skills with them,” Renison says. “Some people are choosing not to come. If this persists, were going to lose a lot of the foreign students we educate.”

The system was barely functioning as it was. Applications for work visas already were so clogged in the federal bureaucracy that in recent years even Ivy League graduates couldn’t be certain of receiving one. Getting a work visa hasn’t guaranteed stability, as Sahay, the data architect, knows.

Employers can sponsor immigrants’ green cards, or permanent visas, but the approvals process is backlogged. The federal government places caps for green cards on each country each year. Indians seeking permanent residency say it’s routine for them to linger in line for a decade or more. Up to 2 million Indian workers here and abroad may be waiting in a green card backlogthat could take a decade or more to clear if there are no changes to the system, says David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute think tank.

Those concerns may add to the shortage of highly skilled technology workers in the United States, just as Canada or Singapore vie for those same people.

Every other startup company, says Vish Mishra, an investor with Clearstone Venture Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, has operations based overseas or recruits workers in India, Eastern Europe, Canada or Israel.

“You’re not going to have, all of a sudden, 200,000 [American] people filling the gap that exists. What are businesses going to do? Businesses have to import talent,” he says.

Canada has become more attractive just since the U.S. presidential election. The country granted temporary work visas to 1,960 Indian nationals in all of 2015, and 2,120 total in the fourth quarter of 2016 and first quarter of this year.

In November, Canada announced that as of June, the country would speed the processing of standard visas and work permits to two weeks for highly skilled talent working for companies doing business in Canada. The move, the government says, will help companies grow and fuel job growth for Canadians.

Meanwhile, in the United States, tech workers and engineers are bound to established companies that filed paperwork for them years back. Almost everyone in the Indian tech community knows a weekend entrepreneur who desperately wants to start his or her own company but can’t quit work because they would be visa-less. Meanwhile, friends and family in India beg them to come home and bring their ideas to India’s own booming silicon valleys.

Rishi Bhilawadikar, a user-experience designer in the Bay area, says that tenuous life lived by so many educated Indian workers — in America, but not really of America — spurred him to shoot a feature film.

In For Here or To Go, made over the course of more than seven years, the characters weigh whether America has lost its promise for young, mobile Indians. The idea bubbled up, Bhilawadikar says, after he read research that showed how certain laws keep some immigrants from fulfilling their potential, driving many back home or to countries with more welcoming policies, such as Canada and Chile.

Source: Trump has started a brain drain back to India

India’s supreme court bans Islamic instant divorce | The Guardian

Welcome development:

India’s top court has banned a controversial Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives instantly, saying it was unconstitutional.

Victims of the practice known as “triple talaq”, whereby Muslim men can divorce their wives by reciting the word talaq (divorce) three times, had approached the supreme court to ask for a ban.

Triple talaq “is not integral to religious practice and violates constitutional morality”, a panel of judges said.

“It’s a very happy day for us. It’s a historic day,” said Zakia Soman, the co-founder of the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, which was part of the legal battle to end the practice.

“We, the Muslim women, are entitled to justice from the courts as well as the legislature,” she added.

The five supreme court judges were from India’s major faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism. In their ruling, they said it was “manifestly arbitrary” to allow a man to “break down [a] marriage whimsically and capriciously”.

“What is sinful under religion cannot be valid under law,” they said.

The practice had been challenged in lower courts but it was the first time India’s supreme court had considered whether triple talaq was legal.

India allows religious institutions to govern matters of marriage, divorce and property inheritance in the multi-faith nation, enshrining triple talaq as a legal avenue for its 180 million Muslims to end unions.

More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice while in India, the practice has continued. While most Hindu personal law has been overhauled and codified over the years, Muslim laws have been left to religious authorities and left largely untouched.

The Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, had backed the petitioners in this landmark case, declaring triple talaq unconstitutional and discriminatory against women. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party has long pushed for a uniform civil code, governing Indians of all religions, to be enforced.

The issue remains highly sensitive in India, where religious tensions often lead to violence.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), a grouping of Islamic organisations, had told the court that while they considered the practice of triple talaq wrong, they opposed any court intervention and asked that the matter be left to the community to tackle.

Progressive Muslim activists had criticised the board’s position. “This is the demand of ordinary Muslim women for over 70 years and it’s time for this country to hear their voices,” activist Feroze Mithiborwala told New Delhi television station.

Source: India’s supreme court bans Islamic instant divorce | World news | The Guardian

International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes: Douglas Todd

The ingenuity of persons wanting to come to Canada knows no bounds. No hard numbers but widespread anecdotes indicate that there is an issue (India sends the second largest number of students to Canada after China: 77,000 in 2016):

The newspaper ads in India are the visible tip of a booming underground industry in fake marriages involving would-be international students.

The prize for the “spouse” whose family buys an instant marriage with a foreign student is back-door access to a full-time job in Canada and a fast-track to citizenship.

The matrimonial ads normally promise that the foreign students’ sham marriage, plus all travel and study expenses, will be paid for by the Indian families who are determined to have their son or daughter emigrate.

The type of Indian student the ads seek is usually a teenage girl, who must have passed an English-language test and therefore be in line to be accepted as an international student.

Media outlets in India, such as the Hindustan Times, report there is a “booming matrimony market for ‘brides’ who can earn the ‘groom’” coveted status as a migrant to a Western country.

Canada is among the most sought-after destinations for Indian foreign students, say migration specialists, because it is the most generous toward foreign students and their spouses. Australia has also been popular, but recently tightened its rules.

Here is a typical recent ad from one Punjabi-language newspaper in India, Ajit:

“Jatt Sikh, boy, 24 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, needs girl with IELTS band 7. Marriage real or fake. Boy’s side will pay all expenses.”

The ad is listed by a high-caste “Jatt” Sikh male, or more likely his parents. It seeks a contractual marriage with a young woman who has scored well (“band 7”) on an international exam called “IELTS,” the International English Language Testing System. Almost three million IELTS exams are conducted each year.

Here is another ad, from the newspaper Jagbani:

“Barbar Sikh, 24, 5 feet 8 inches. Finished Grade 12. Looking for BSc or IELTS pass girl. Boy’s side will pay all expenses to go to Canada.”

In this ad the family of a lower-caste “Barbar Sikh” is seeking to have their son marry an Indian female with a bachelors of science degree, or a passing mark on the IELTS test, so their son can be allowed into Canada as her spouse.

As these kinds of ads illustrate, the parents of the male “spouse” typically offer to cover all expenses for the international student, who often end up attending one of the scores of private colleges in Canada with low to non-existent standards.

B.C. is home to 130,000 international students, the vast majority of whom are in Metro Vancouver, which has the highest concentration of foreign students in Canada.

In exchange for financing the foreign student, the phony spouse gets to live in Canada and legally work up to 40 hours a week, plus receive medical coverage and other benefits. That puts them in a strong position to become permanent residents of Canada.

The foreign-student marriage rackets are gaining attention in newspapers in India.

Indian media are reporting angry fallout when students financed by other families either fail to get into a Western college or university, or try to break up with their spouses of convenience.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist Shinder Purewal, a former Canadian citizenship court judge, says Punjabi- and Hindi-language newspapers in India run dozens of such ads each week.

“Families are looking for matches to get their sons or daughters abroad. And the most successful route to Canada is through international-student channels. It’s an easy way to get immigration,” said Purewal.

Source: International students in B.C. could be in fake marriage schemes | Vancouver Sun

Indian officer’s denial at Canadian border a mistake, federal government says

Mistakes happen. Recognition and correction depends in part about level of person affected and nature of representation:

The federal government is admitting border officials made a mistake when a retired anti-insurgency officer from India was deemed inadmissible to Canada and denied entry.

Days later, after an outcry from Indian officials, the officer was suddenly reissued a visa and flown back to Toronto.

In a statement in May, Canada’s High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, expressed “regret” about the incident but would not reveal the rejected visitor’s identity citing privacy protection. Immigration officials subsequently confirmed the person as Tejinder Singh Dhillon.

Dhillon, a retired senior officer with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), India’s largest paramilitary force under the home affairs ministry, was refused admission in May at the Vancouver airport on the way to his niece’s wedding in Toronto.

Canada border officials explained the refusal by indicating on a form letter that the 67-year-old had served a government that engages or has engaged in terrorism, human rights violations, crime against humanity or genocide.

The incident immediately caused diplomatic ripples between New Delhi and Ottawa, prompting Canadian officials to issue not just a new multiple-entry visa to Dhillon but a plane ticket for his return.

“Such a characterization of a reputed force like the CRPF is completely unacceptable.  We have taken up the matter with the Government of Canada,” a foreign ministry official told Indian media.

Patel said the refusal was a mistake on Ottawa’s part.

“Over the past year, over 300,000 Indian nationals have applied to visit Canada. From time to time, with such a large number of applications, oversights on visa applications can happen which is regrettable,” Patel wrote in a statement.

“Form letters in use by the Government of Canada include generic language taken from Canada’s legislation. In this case, the language does not reflect the Government of Canada’s policy toward India or any particular organization. . . The Central Reserve Police Force plays an important role in upholding law and order in India.”

Anirudh Bhattacharyya, who interviewed Dhillon and reported the story from Toronto for the Hindustan Times, said Dhillon complained Canadian officials treated him in an “unreasonable and indecent manner, accusing him of having either participated or having knowledge of CRPF’s human rights violations.

“It is very upsetting. I have seen many crises, but this is very difficult to bear,” Dhillon told Bhattacharyya in an interview.

Source: Indian officer’s denial at Canadian border a mistake, federal government says | Toronto Star

India: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | Hindustan Times

Some of the challenges of India’s diversity and pluralism:

The BJP’s “test case” for granting citizenship to non-Muslims who fled or are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has run into rough weather in Arunachal Pradesh.

Much before the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh hit turbulence in Assam in 1979, Arunachal Pradesh grappled with Chakma and Hajong refugees displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan in the 1960s.

The Narendra Modi government’s decision to grant the Chakmas and Hajongs citizenship to honour a 2015 Supreme Court directive has stoked anger in the frontier state. Several NGOs have threatened to oppose the move.

Last Saturday, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), the apex students’ body of the state, organised a consultative meeting of NGOs representing indigenous communities who fear being affected by Delhi’s decision.

“The Union home ministry took this decision despite assuring us otherwise. We vehemently oppose the move to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees,” said AAPSU president Hawa Bagang. “We called an all-party meeting, where the presence of all 60 Arunachal MLAs and the state’s three MPs is mandatory.” The meeting is scheduled within a week, he said.

The students’ body, which launched the movement against the refugees in 1990, fears citizenship would reduce indigenous tribes such as Tai-Khampti, Singpho and Mishmi to a minority, besides robbing them of beneficiary schemes.

“Unlike the Tibetan refugees, who stay in designated camps, the Chakmas and Hajongs have spread out and established settlements by encroaching upon forest areas,” Bagang said.

The population of Chakmas and Hajongs was about 5,000 when Delhi had them moved to southern Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1969. Their population is now about 100,000.

The AAPSU said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be using the Chakma and Hajong refugees as a “test case for its Hindutva-centric plan to embrace non-Muslims from India’s neighbourhood, specifically Hindus from Bangladesh”.

Displaced by dam, religious persecution

Members of the Singpho tribe. Singphos and Tangsas are indigenous tribes of southern Arunachal Pradesh in whose area the Chakma and Hajong refugees were settled. (Pronib Das/HT Photo)

The Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajong refugees began trickling into India in the early 1960s via present-day Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills district of Assam — after the Kaptai dam project submerged their land in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Source: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | india-news | Hindustan Times

Triple talaq: India top court reviews Islamic instant divorce – BBC News

For those enamoured by the word pluralism, one used often to describe India, this is what it can mean.

Pluralism, like multiculturalism and interculturalism, can either be ‘deep,’ with separate institutions and family law, or ‘shallow,’ where religious and other community rights are balanced against other rights such as gender.

Canadian commentators who jump upon negative foreign commentary on multiculturalism need to understand clearly that multiculturalism in Canada is based upon civic integration, with individual religious rights subject to the other fundamental freedoms and equality.

Will be interesting to see how the Indian Supreme Court rules:

India’s Supreme Court has formally opened hearings into a number of petitions challenging the controversial practice of instant divorce in Islam.

The court said it would examine whether the practice known as “triple talaq” was fundamental to the religion.

India is one of a handful of countries in the world where a Muslim man can divorce his wife in minutes by saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

But activists say the practice is “discriminatory”.

Many Muslim groups have opposed the court’s intervention in their religious matters, although the move has the backing of the current Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The sensitive issue is being heard by a multi-faith bench made up of five judges – a Hindu, a Sikh, a Christian, a Zoroastrian and one Muslim.

The bench has combined several petitions from Muslim women and rights groups into one to examine the issue.

The opposing sides have been given three days each to argue their cases, with the court saying the hearing will end by 19 May.

A judgement is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

The Indian government has told the court that triple talaq is unconstitutional, against gender justice and the dignity of women.

Muslim organisations that support the practice say it’s an issue of faith and personal law, and the courts have no role in reviewing it.

For years now, Muslim women in India have been demanding a ban on a practice they view as reprehensible.

Campaigners say over the years, thousands of women, especially those from poor families, have been discarded by their husbands, many have been rendered destitute with nowhere to go and many have been forced to return to their parental homes or fend for themselves.

Muslims are India’s largest minority community with a population of 155 million and their marriages and divorces are governed by the Muslim personal law, ostensibly based on Sharia, or Islamic law.

The law came into force in 1937 and lays out that, in matters of personal dispute, the state shall not interfere.

Source: Triple talaq: India top court reviews Islamic instant divorce – BBC News

Multiculturalism in Sweden: an Indian’s perspective – The Local

Interesting piece by Joy Merwin Monteiro, a climate scientist, currently working as a post doc at Stockholm University [Indian multiculturalism or pluralism is “deep” with greater emphasis on communal rights]:

Why India? Well, one can provide any number of reasons, but I would prefer to make my point by way of examples from Indian history. Due to its geographical location at the centre of the Indian Ocean and its fabled wealth, India has attracted immigrants for millennia, as traders, conquerors and refugees. We have had Jewish refugee communities fleeing from Portugal and Spain, Zoroastrians fleeing the Islamisation of Iran, Buddhists (including the Dalai Lama) fleeing the annexation of Tibet and Muslimrefugees from Iran.

Communities of ChineseEast Africans and Armenians have lived in India for centuries. The above list does not even include the conquering peoples of Central Asian and Turkicorigin, followed by the more recent colonisation by European powers. In contemporary times, India has become a preferred destination for those I would term “spiritual refugees“. In terms of actual numbers, these communities may be small, but their influence in Indian society has been disproportionately large: To this day, the economic and cultural achievement of some of the communities listed above is a source of envy and respect for other Indians. Note that here I have not even considered the huge internal diversity within India, with its various communities, castes and creeds, which in itself is a daunting subject to explore.

So, do these various immigrant communities maintain their distinct identity? Yes, very proudly. Do they tend to live in areas dominated by their own kind? All the time. Do they marry outside their community? Hardly, if ever. Do they consider themselves Indians? Very much! To the Western observer, steeped in the notion of “one people, one state” – a modern notion, even in Europe: there are vineyards that predate the concept of the Nation-State by a century or two  – it must seem incredible that India can function as a modern democracy without much in terms of shared culture and values. In fact, most observers expected the Idea of India to collapse without British “stewardship”; Today, no one would dispute the fact that India is one of the most robust and politically energetic democracies to emerge from the ruins of the Second World War.

It is true however that almost all communities in India, immigrant or not, are wary of each other, and most don’t even like each other. However, they need each other to go about their daily life – most Hindus would prefer a Muslim butcher or mechanic over someone from their own community, I would bet my money on a Parsi businessman, and everyone wants to send their children to a Jesuit run school. You don’t have to like each other to respect each other; you don’t even have to respect each other to tolerate each other. If there is any such thing as a universal shared value in the hodge-podge of nations that make up India, it is tolerance. We even tolerate things that we should not – corruption, poverty and exploitation being prime examples. To my mind, these two aspects of Indian society – a dense network of interdependencies, and tolerance towards values utterly foreign to you – have not only kept us ticking, but have also provided the political stability required to build one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Joy Merwin Monteiro, the author of this opinion piece. Photo: Private

There are two ways to integrate an immigrant: The American “Melting Pot” way, where the immigrant is expected to lose her personal value system in deference to the larger national value system, however defined, or the Indian “Mosaic” way, which allows her to retain her values, which adds to the larger set of national values, while emphasising tolerance as a way towards social stability. The “Mosaic” way was probably best summarised by M K Gandhi:

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

These are troubled times in the world. Troubled times are also revelatory, since they provide us with an opportunity to look deep within, and decide who we really are. Sweden has been exemplary in its handling of environmental and humanistic issues; I wish the Swedes all the best in their journey ahead towards becoming a truly multi-cultural society.

Source: Multiculturalism in Sweden: an Indian’s perspective – The Local

The Trouble With India’s New Citizenship Bill | The Diplomat

Look forward to some comments from those more familiar with India and Indian politics than I:

Granting citizenship to Hindu refugees and making India “a natural home for persecuted Hindus” were among the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election manifesto. Modi, in a 2014 election rally, specifically promised citizenship to Hindu-Bangladeshis, saying that they would be removed from the migrant camps. Since then, the current government has taken many steps which may seem majoritarian and anti-Muslim.

Against this backdrop, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seems to be aimed toward making India a haven for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. A closer look at the provisions indicates that the current government is attempting to increase its Hindu voter count. The BJP government’s website about Hindutva ideology clearly draws from Israel’s law of return and aims to do the same for Hindus in India. This policy in the Indian context would be contrary to the ideals of secularism and pluralism and thus unconstitutional.

The provisions of the bill would affect over 200,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh and their migration into the border states of India would change the voter demographics in the region. The BJP government came to power in Assam in 2016, for the first time in 15 years, by using the agenda of ending illegal migration from Bangladesh. According to the Census of India (2011), 34.2 percent of Assam’s population is Muslim and the census shows that there has been a 4 percent rise in Muslim population over the past five years. The BJP government used the data as the basis of their campaign to gain votes in the region. If the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed, in its current form, then the border regions would face an influx of Hindu migrants, which would change the voter demographics in the region.

The bill aims to save religious minorities from violence and blasphemy laws in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The rationale for selecting just these three countries, which are Muslim-dominated countries, is a cause for concern. The bill at first glance seems like a humanitarian effort to help persecuted minorities but it only seeks to help Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from the neighboring Muslim countries. Muslim minority communities facing oppression in other countries have been completely ignored. If the bill was really an attempt to provide a safe haven for minorities facing violence in their countries then it should also offer the same provisions to the minority Muslim communities in China and Myanmar as well. The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Uyghur Muslims in China, and the Ahmaddiya Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been facing persecution for years. Further, Myanmar’s Hindus have also been ignored in the bill.

India is not a signatory of the United Nation Refugee Convention; therefore it is not required to provide safe haven to people seeking asylum from persecution in other countries. No attempts have been made by the government to debate the issue of joining the United Nation Refugee Convention. That would have been the natural step to take if the government was indeed interested in formulating a humanitarian refugee policy. Further, the provisions of refugee protection cater to all minorities fleeing countries due to a humanitarian crisis but, in this bill, India is offering citizenship based on religious predilections. The bill, if passed in its current form, seeks to give preference to Hindu refugees over Muslim refugees migrating to India, which is unconstitutional as, the preamble of the Constitution confirms India as a secular state.

The refugees who will actually benefit from this policy are living in abject poverty with no sanitation and infrastructure facilities. The government, instead of using a blanket refugee policy, has made this a communal issue with a veiled political agenda, which would be counterproductive to the seemingly humanitarian goal of the bill.

A member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, revealed in the National Assembly that around 5,000 Hindus migrate from Pakistan to India every year. In 2015, the BJP government approved citizenship for 4,230 Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan and Afghanistan who sought refuge in India. The BJP had earlier claimed that they had granted Indian citizenship to 4,300 Pakistani nationals during 2014-15. However, a response to a query filed under the Right to Information by Seemant Lok Sanghthan showed that only 289 Pakistani Hindus were granted Indian citizenship in this period. This furthers the argument that the BJP’s political agenda supersedes its humanitarian goals.

It is also interesting to note that BJP’s stance on refugees has completely turned around in the last decade. In 2003 when 213 “Bangladeshi citizens” were stranded in the no man’s land between India and Bangladesh, neither country accepted them. Yet the BJP, in 2014, declared itself as a “natural home for persecuted Indians” and extended long-term visas in various states and provided citizenship to Hindus from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The constant emphasis on granting refuge on the basis of religion is in keeping with the Hindutva ideology popularly advocated by the current government.

The bill, if passed and made into an act, could be challenged and struck down by the judiciary later because of its unconstitutional nature — the provisions go against the secularism enshrined under the preamble. The government’s stance of helping refugees only if they fall under the category of persecuted religious minorities is heavily biased.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 may be presented as a move to protect the religious minorities in other countries from being persecuted but, the underlying issue clear: the bill is meant to address the BJP’s stated objective of making India the “Hindu Homeland.” The provisions blatantly ignore Muslims in the protection clauses and mention only religious minorities in Muslim-dominated countries. Further, the bill will change the demographics of the border states. The Bill adds to an ominous trend of a government which is not afraid of pushing a religious ideology, even when it is in contravention of the Constitution, in order to further its own political agenda.

Source: The Trouble With India’s New Citizenship Bill | The Diplomat

India: Opposition, NGOs slam move to amend Citizenship Act – The Hindu

Indian citizenship debates and religious preference:

The Bill has been criticised by the Opposition, which has accused the government of granting citizenship to persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries on “religious lines” and wooing the majority Hindu community.

To change definition

With this amendment, the government plans to change the definition of “illegal migrants” that will enable it to grant citizenship to minorities, mostly Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who fled their countries fearing religious persecution. The Bill creates an exception for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and plans to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in July.

A joint parliamentary panel, which is examining the Bill, heard petitions from several NGOs on Thursday.

 One of the NGOs from Assam demanded that the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay be waived for all Hindus and that they be immediately included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The NRC is being updated in Assam to weed out illegal migrants who came to Assam post the 1971 war when Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan. The cut-off date for the NRC is midnight of March 24, 1971, and all those who migrated to Assam from Bangladesh before this period would get Indian citizenship as per the Assam Accord signed in 1985.

Another NGO from Rajasthan also demanded that Hindus be exempted from the naturalisation process.

At the meeting, parliamentarians said the government was amending the Act to appease the Hindu community as the people who would be benefited the most would be Hindus from neighbouring countries.

Source: Opposition, NGOs slam move to amend Citizenship Act – The Hindu