NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India wants to give citizenship to immigrants belonging to religious minorities persecuted in neighbouring Muslim countries, including Pakistan, because they have nowhere to go except India.
Critics have called the proposal, contained in a Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May.
The bill seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who came to India before Dec. 31, 2014.
“They have no place to go except India,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament. “The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country.”
But there is significant opposition to the proposal, in particular from the northeastern state of Assam, where residents have for years complained that immigrants from Bangladesh have put a big strain on resources.