Modi’s BJP Pursues Divisive Citizenship Bill

India’s ruling BJP Party (Bharatiya Janata Party), led by Narendra Modi, has successfully pushed contentious immigration reform through the Indian Congress. The reformed Citizenship Act grants citizenship to persecuted minorities from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – implicitly excluding Muslims. Prime Minister Ram Kovind, who in 2010 labelled Islam as ‘alien’ (India has more Muslims than neighbouring Islamic Pakistan), formally ratified the legislation on December 12th.

Sanjay Jan, Indian Congress Party  Spokesman, expressed worrying sentiments, asserting “the reformed law is part of a deeper division fuelled by the BJP to polarise the Indian polity, in effect, ensuring the Indian political arena hits boiling point during the election periods when the BJP can capitalise upon the insecurity”. An apt case of aggression is the scrambling of jets to Pakistan’s airspace in April 2010, coincidentally just before Modi’s BJP won a landslide in the election.

Conversely, Nalin Kohli, BJP Spokesperson, expressed the bill’s historical underpinning; claiming the bill “is for those who could not make it across during the 1947 Partition” (which saw the bloody creation of modern day Pakistan and India), asserting “Muslims have their own countries”. Denoting back to the sentiments expressed by Sanjay Jan, Nazia Erum, an Indian Muslim author, echoes a similar perspective centred on Muslims; “It’s undeniable that in the last four of five years, it has become much worse for Muslims in India. The BJP has tacitly equipped hatred with mainstream legitimacy.”

The most apt criticism espoused by Human Rights organisations and political opponents alike, aside from the institutionally impervious dehumanisation of Muslims – following 2 million Muslims being rendered stateless earlier this year – is the State of India’s unwavering commitment to incessantly refute the very principles of the Indian Constitution, Article 14 in particular. This is undeniable; the Indian constitution upholds secularism, and by conditioning any aspect of citizenship upon religion, and the exclusion of Muslims (whether Rohingya, Uighurs, Hazaras or Ahmediya’s persecuted minorities) and Hindu Tamil’s in Sri Lanka, the Indian state exhibits fearlessness in resolutely exercising its legislative bureaucracy against the nation’s founding principles.

As is the case with any political actions, a historic perspective assists in ascertaining the root cause of the BJP’s divisive jingoistic and fascist nationalism, perhaps most aptly conveyed in Senior BJP Officials threatening to deport Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, where the group is victim to ethnic cleansing. The roots of BJP’s Hinduvta (Hindu Chauvinism) can be, in considerable part, traced back to anxiety during the British Colonial Administration. The creation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s All-India Muslim League, which constructed the political rhetoric culminating in the modern Islamic State of Pakistan in 1947, planted the religious grounds on which the BJP’s predecessor, the Hindu Mahasbha (founded by 2 British Civil Servants no less), would engage in a dirty religious war. Aptly, today we see Modi’s modern re-enactment in capitalising on Islamophobia in segments of the Hindu psyche, a bigotry sowed intermittently from the colonial period, adopting a zealous identification against a Muslim Pakistan.

More troublingly, divisive fascist ideologies have taken root across numerous societies, harvesting the seeds of the pain and insecurity at the heart of the nation. Mirrored by Hinduvsta, both the US in the West and China in the East have politicised Islam to varying degrees, particularly post-9/11. Like any politically aggressive ideology nurtured in insecurity and division, the question is, will these polities pursue anti-other policies, verging on increased right-wing fascist violence and labour camps (as present in China), or engage in restorative legislation aimed at the root cause, and seek to integrate and accept the other?