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Narendra Modi’s Second Partition of India

Democratic India has never had a religious test for citizenship – until now. And the new amendment to the citizenship law approved by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is just one more brick in an edifice of official Islamophobic bigotry.

NEW DELHI – At a time when India’s major national priority ought to be cratering economic growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has instead plunged the country into a new political crisis of its own making.

With its penchant for shock-and-awe tactics, the government pushed through parliament a controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill that fast-tracks citizenship for people fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh – provided they are not Muslim. By excluding members of just one community, the bill, which was quickly signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind, is fundamentally antithetical to India’s secular and pluralist traditions. As I argued in parliament, it is an affront to the fundamental tenets of equality and religious non-discrimination enshrined in our Constitution and an all-out assault on the very idea of India for which our forefathers gave their lives.

As India’s freedom struggle neared its goal, Indian nationalists split over the question of whether religion should be the determinant of nationhood. Those who believed that it should, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his followers, advocated the idea of Pakistan as a separate country for Muslims. The rest, led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, argued passionately that religion had nothing to do with nationhood. Their idea of India led to a free country for people of all religions, regions, castes, and languages.

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