The Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) — which makes it easier for people of all faiths except Islam to acquire Indian citizenship — has, arguably, resulted in more violence than any law passed around the world.
The latest was in February, when communal riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in New Delhi.
More than 40 died and hundreds were injured, most of them Muslims. The irony is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hosting United States President Donald Trump in one section of Delhi while the other was, literally, burning under the fire of apartheid. Neither leader made any call to stop the carnage against the Muslims. But not all were silent.
India’s former British Raj was understandably disturbed enough to debate the CAA in its Upper House of Parliament, the House of Lords. The lawmakers have called on the British government to seek a representation from reluctant Delhi.
Britain must have been left wondering: is this the India it left behind?
The chorus of concern has grown. Yesterday, Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered a blunt message to India: stop the massacre of Muslims.
India’s most vocal of all papers on the Hindu-Muslim divide, The Telegraph, quoted Khamenei as saying in a tweet: “The hearts of Muslims all over the world are grieving over the massacre of Muslims in India. The govt of India should confront extremist Hindus & their parties & stop the massacre of Muslims in order to prevent India’s isolation from the world of Islam”.
Even India’s former premier, Manmohan Singh, is pained by what India has become: a strife-ridden majoritarian state. Writing an op-ed in The Hindu, another English Indian daily, Manmohan says: “University campuses, public places and private homes are bearing the brunt of communal outbursts of violence, reminiscent of the dark periods in India's history.”
The reason for this slide to the south of the country he once led? The institutions of law and order, justice and media have all failed the people.
The official line of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Indian government is that the CAA is an attempt to register all of the country’s 1.3 billion people to determine who are illegal immigrants.
But the 200 million Muslims fear that the CAA and the National Register of Citizens will be used to hunt them down for possible detention and eventual deportation. The building of detention camps around the country, however, flies in the face of the official narrative.
Muslims have been in India from time immemorial, and many have no papers to prove their Indian birth. They have every reason to fear being made stateless.
India needs to mend its ways. “Intolerant” isn’t a good adjective for India to wear. Nelson Mandela died thinking apartheid ended in South Africa. He could not have been more wrong. It is alive and kicking in India. Little wonder the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, after reviewing the CAA, has placed India in the bad company of Myanmar.
Othering never did any country any good. Segregation is a racial boiling pot. When it boils over, both India and its people will be the losers.
Khamenei’s call to India to stop the massacre of Muslims needs the support of the international community. The United Nations must act now. It failed in Rwanda. It mustn’t fail in India.