India’s discriminatory new citizenship law and policies have spurred violence against Muslims, the Human Rights Watch said in a recently-released report.
The 82-page report, Shoot the Traitors’: Discrimination Against Muslims Under India’s New Citizenship Policy, says the police and other officials have repeatedly failed to intervene when government supporters attacked those protesting against the new citizenship policies. It also noted that the police have been quick to arrest critics of the policy and disperse peaceful protests with the use of force.
“India’s prime minister has appealed for a united fight against COVID-19, but has yet to call for unity in the fight against anti-Muslim violence and discrimination,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Government policies have opened the door for mob violence and police inaction that have instilled fear among Muslims and other minority communities throughout the country.”
The report is based on over 100 interviews with victims of abuse and their families from Delhi and the states of Assam and Uttar Pradesh, as well as with legal experts, academics, activists, and police officials.
India’s new amended citizenship law fast-tracks asylum claims of irregular immigrants from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but excludes Muslims.
The UN and a number of governments have criticised the law and called it discriminatory but BJP officials have “mocked and threatened protesters”, according to the Human Rights Watch.
In February, communal clashes and Hindu mob attacks on Muslims in Delhi resulted in more than 50 deaths. The report noted that witness accounts and video evidence showed police complicity in the violence.
The National Register of Citizens has already left nearly two million people at risk of arbitrary detention and statelessness in India’s northeast state of Assam, added the report.
The Citizenship Amendment Act violates India’s international obligations to prevent deprivation of citizenship on the basis of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin, said the Human Rights Watch, adding that the Indian government should repeal the amendment and ensure that any future national asylum and refugee policy does not discriminate on any grounds, including religion, and complies with international legal standards.
It should also discard any plan for a nationwide citizenship verification project until there are public consultations to establish standardized procedures and due process protections to ensure that it does not impose undue hardship on the poor, minority communities, migrant or internally displaced populations, and women, Human Rights Watch said.