In the wake of India’s new citizenship law that the Indian parliament amended in December of 2019, anti-Citizenship Act protests have only gathered steam. The protests have increased organically which means they are adhoc and unorganized. They first started in the North East and then throughout the country, aided by police attempts at violently shutting them down on college campuses. This includes 40 sit-ins around the country. Some believe this is more of a political issue than a religious fight against a new amendment.
The new amendment to the citizenship law was intended to speed up the process of providing citizenship to persecuted religious minorities. The underlying specifics only permitted non-Muslims from three neighboring Muslim countries to apply. It appears that the Citizenship Act amendments was squarely aimed at helping the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election prospects in West Bengal.
A month after the amendment, Modi is still dealing with the fallout of the amendments. Protests against the have brought people who are against the amendments to the streets as well as the deaths of more than 20 in police violence.
The Administration Had a Plan
The administration had a plan to deal with any pushback. As part of the passage of the amendments, the government extended further concessions to states in the North East. It now appears that protesters in the North East also fear that the amendments would cause demographic changes.
Many in the government are not taking the changes sitting down. Left Front-ruled Kerala and Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh governments have already approached the Supreme Court calling the citizenship amendments unconstitutional. Some of the chief ministers such as Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala have also been reported as saying that they would not implement the CAA. This comes despite the governments in the states understanding that they cannot refuse to implement a law that has been passed by Parliament. What they can do is challenge a law if Parliament infringes upon the rights of the state legislatures.
The state legislatures are experiencing blowback from the Modi government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioned the Opposition leaders, particularly those in Bengal and Kerala in December over their statements about not implementing the CAA.
The state governments that have said they cannot implement the citizenship amendments likely do not have that option legally. Politically, the Opposition-ruled states can resort to a political battle with the Modi government until the Supreme Court settles the debate. Given the political nature of the protests to the citizenship amendment by state governments, the BJP leaders including PM Modi have blamed the continued protests on the Congress. This appears to be more of a political battle than a movement against a new amendment. The anti-CAA resolutions by the opposition-ruled states will likely continue to be a political fight with PM Modi, as opposed to a growing movement against a religious issue.
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