Is India's Citizenship bill as discriminatory as Donald Trump's executive order on immigration?

Rights groups and several parliamentarians claim that Narendra Modi government's citizenship law violates the secular norms of the Indian constitution.

If you thought that Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration is discriminatory for targeting citizens of seven majorly Muslim countries, hold on to that thought. Trump’s directive is now being compared to India’s citizenship bill, introduced by the Narendra Modi government last year and currently being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

A report in English daily The Telegraph pointed out that India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill leaves out Muslims and Jews from the list of persecuted communities who would be eligible to get Indian citizenship through naturalisation.

On the other hand, India’s proposed law envisages to make it easier for non-Muslim minorities including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians fleeing Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to get Indian papers.

The bill is reportedly facing stiff resistance from sections of the government of Assam, several parliamentarians and rights groups who accuse it of being “communal” for discriminating against the Muslim community.

According to the The Telegraph report, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP and the member of the parliamentary committee, Mohammad Salim, reportedly raised concerns over the legislation claiming it flouted the secular norms of the Constitution.

(Source: Youtube/NMF News)

In September 2016, the bill attracted a massive protest in the country’s capital city New Delhi where several rights activists dubbed it as “communally motivated humanitarianism”.

“By seeking to grant citizenship on the basis of religious denomination, it is blatantly in violation of the constitution,” a protest organiser, Shalim Hussein, was quoted as saying at the time.

PRS legislative research, an independent organisation working in New Delhi, said that the proposed citizenship law violated Article 14 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees right to equality.

The Telegraph quoted PRS as saying, “Article 14 guarantees equality to all persons, citizens and foreigners. It only permits laws to differentiate between groups of people if the rationale for doing so serves a reasonable purpose. The statement of objects and reasons of the bill does not explain the rationale behind differentiating between illegal migrants on the basis of the religion they belong to.”

Muslims made up nearly 35 percent of Assam’s population in 2011, which was more than double the national average of 14.2 percent. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been critical of previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for allowing unchecked immigration from Bangladesh over the years.

One of electoral pledges of Prime Minister Narendra Modi  in the lead up to 2014 national election was to deport illegal Bangladeshi migrants from the country, a campaign cry similar to Donald Trump’s remarks on illegal Mexican immigrants during his successful presidential campaign.