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EDITORIAL: Indian law threatens Muslims in nation

Rutgers students held a protest due to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) written by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, which many view as an active attempt to discriminate against Muslims and other ethnic groups that have historically been deemed undesirable by a nationalist Indian government. 

“The bill claims to provide fast-track citizenship to people who arrived in India before 2015 and also belong to a specific religious background, specifically Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians,” according to The Daily Targum. “Protesters against the bill at this event say that the bill works to further marginalize Muslim minority groups by excluding them from attaining fast-track citizenship.”

Persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar makes this bill even more haunting, as it forbids them from using India as a safe haven from the atrocities committed in their homelands. 

Supporters of the CAA cite a little-known, non-impactful bill from the early '90s penned by the United States to justify their backing of the Amendment, claiming that the new Indian legislation is essentially the same thing. The Lautenberg Amendment was passed in 1990 by the United States, and was a well-intentioned law that hoped to provide a harbor for Jews and Christians fleeing the dissolving Soviet Union. 

But parallels between that bill and the CAA are incredibly flawed.

“It is true that America passed Lautenberg ... in 1990 to hand Jews and Christians in the Soviet Union and some Southeast Asian countries … an expedited pathway to gain refugee status in America. Typically, prospective refugees have to individually prove they are facing persecution to gain admission … But Lautenberg created a presumption of persecution for Jews and Christians due to concerns that the political turmoil generated by the collapse of the Soviet Union might make them even more vulnerable to persecution than usual. So they had to show merely a generalized — not individualized — fear to be considered for admission,” according to The Week. 

The Lautenberg Amendment promoted an easier path to safety for persecuted groups while the CAA essentially does the opposite, making it more difficult for the most vulnerable to use India as a place of safety, according to the article. 

“In other words, Lautenberg cuts against dominant prejudices while the CAA caters to them. Moreover, Lautenberg, laudably, aimed to admit more refugees into America, not create a discriminatory citizenship standard for those inside the country. When it comes to U.S. citizenship, one uniform standard applies to everyone regardless of race, caste, creed, religion or nationality,” according to the article.

Both bills single out special processes for individual ethnic groups, but the American bill sought to aid those most in need and is flexible depending on global circumstances, while the CAA seeks to discriminate against those most in need and does not include provisions for adjustment. The general outline of the bills are similar, but the impact and their intentions could not possibly be further from each other.

Outside of the technicalities of the bill, the entire gesture is a dehumanizing one. India has a large Muslim population, with Pew Research Center estimating it to be approximately 194 million people in 2015, a number that is certainly higher now. 

A significant portion of this population lives in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region which has had their semi-autonomous status revoked, been cut off from the internet and experienced mass arrests, according to The New York Times. This bill is part of a larger attempt to disenfranchise and silence Muslims in India. 

When 200 million people feel singled out and discriminated against by their own government, how can we sit idly by and allow that government to continue normal operations? How can we let them get away with such blatant xenophobia and religious discrimination? 

The Indian government is alienating its own people and imposing its own ideals — ones rooted in racism, tribalism and suppression — onto its constituents, abandoning a huge portion of its population in the process.

In a more general sense, the age of viewing one religious, ethnic or racial group as superior or ideal must come to an end. Singling out people due to their ethnic group is the sign of an archaic government. 

It is a sign that that government should not be allowed to move forward without severe backlash and penalty. It is a sign that new leadership is needed — leadership that will defend India’s 200 million Muslims like it defended the rest of its populace, rather than persecuting them and creating an environment of divisiveness and prejudice. 

Rutgers has a diverse population, one that includes Muslim and Indian people, many of whom are impacted by the fate of the CAA. The support for these protests, and those who stand against Hindutva such as Rutgers University—Newark professor Audrey Truschke, must continue here at Rutgers and around the world, because this piece of legislation is a travesty to human rights that has to be stopped. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.