Human Rights Watch has termed India’s new citizenship law as discriminatory in a new report.
The Citizenship Amendment Act along with a planned nationwide verification process to identify illegal immigrants is a threat to millions of Indian Muslims, said the report released on Thursday.
The law which was approved last December accelerates citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, but blocks naturalization for Muslims.
Muslim leaders fear the new law will be linked to a nationwide exercise where every citizen would be asked to prove Indian citizenship.
Many organizations and individuals have approached the Supreme Court challenging the act’s constitutional validity. Many state governments have also refused to implement the act.
The 82-page report, Shoot the Traitors: Discrimination Against Muslims Under India’s New Citizenship Policy says the police and other officials have repeatedly failed to intervene when government supporters attacked those protesting the new citizenship policies.
“The police, however, have been quick to arrest critics of the policy and disperse their peaceful demonstrations, including by using excessive and lethal force,” it adds.
In a statement, Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: “India’s prime minister has appealed for a united fight against COVID-19, but has yet to call for unity in the fight against anti-Muslim violence and discrimination.”
“Government policies have opened the door for mob violence and police inaction that have instilled fear among Muslims and other minority communities throughout the country,” she said.
The report is based on more than 100 interviews with victims of abuse and their families from Delhi and the states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh, as well as with legal experts, academics, activists, and police officials.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has declined to comment on the matter. According to Anadolu Agency, party spokeperson Shahnawaz Hussain said “It is a sensitive issue and we cannot comment at the moment”.