Narendra Modi
India has announced rules that would allow it to implement a controversial citizenship bill that excludes Muslims.

India's Ministry of Home Affairs announced its rules for implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a controversial law that grants a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants from certain religious minorities but excludes Muslims.

The announcement comes ahead of India's upcoming general election, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a third term in office. The CAA will reportedly welcome non-Muslim religious minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Authorities say the citizenship law will help religions facing persecution, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Passed by India's parliament in 2019, the CAA could not be implemented until the rules were notified.

Despite being supported by Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the CAA faces strong opposition from political parties. According to critics, the law violates the constitution and discriminates against India's roughly 200 million Muslims.

In contrast, Amit Shah, Minister of Home Affairs of India, took to Elon Musk-owned social media platform X(formerly Twitter) to heap praise on Modi. In his X post, Shah noted that Modi has "delivered on another commitment and realised the promise of the makers of our constitution to the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians living in those countries."

The implementation of the CAA is also one of the most pressing pledges made by PM Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the lead-up to this year's general elections.

Critics challenge the CAA

This legislation modifies the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently restricts illegal migrants from attaining Indian citizenship. The new law requires people seeking citizenship to prove that they arrived in India from Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan by 31 December 2014.

The current status of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is unclear. While the law has been passed, its exact implementation date remains unknown. In the meantime, critics argue the CAA is discriminatory for the following reasons:

  • Religious Bias: The CAA grants citizenship based on religion, which violates India's secular constitution.
  • Unequal Treatment: The CAA excludes Muslims from neighbouring countries facing persecution and raises concerns about fairness.
  • Limited Scope: It fails to address the plight of refugees from other countries like Myanmar or Sri Lanka.

Unsurprisingly, the opposition did not receive Monday's announcement well and is accusing the government of attempting to sway the upcoming election, which is slated to take place in April or May.

"After multiple extensions in four years, its [the law's] implementation two to three days before the election announcement shows that it is being done for political reasons," said All India Trinamool Congress party leader, Mamata Banerjee, at a press conference.

Jairam Ramesh, the communication head of the Indian National Congress, wrote on social media that "the time taken to notify the rules for the CAA is yet another demonstration of the Prime Minister's blatant lies."