Date: December 9, 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to press ahead with controversial legislation to grant Indian citizenship to migrant refugees from a number of religious groups including Christians, but will exclude Muslims.
The new law will give citizenship to refugee Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan). It also proposes to reduce the mandated eleven years of residence in India for citizenship eligibility to six years.
Home Minister Amit Shah defended excluding Muslims by saying that Muslims do not face persecution in the three countries, so do not qualify. However, critics of the new law described it as a potential move to facilitate the deportation of millions of Muslims, and promote the nationalist Hindutva agenda of the BJP party, which Modi leads.
A Barnabas contact says that Christians who have converted from Islam will not be eligible for citizenship under the scheme because their legal documentation identifies them as Muslim.
In a separate development, a Christian leader has urged Modi to issue a directive to police authorities alerting them that “hate crimes” against Christians are likely to rise in the lead up to Christmas, a pattern of anti-Christian violence that is repeated at Easter.
Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said the directive will make the authorities “sensitive to the situation” and also send “a strong signal to criminal elements who may wish to vitiate the environment”.
In a letter to the prime minister, Lal said there is rising intolerance towards pastors and Christian institutions in many parts of the country that has resulted in “loss of life, livelihood and property”. More than 250 incidents of violence and “hate crimes” have taken place against Christians so far this year, including about ten incidents during Easter week, he added.