On December 12, Indian President Kwaind signed the “Citizenship Amendment” (hereinafter referred to as the “Amendment”), which caused the riots to spread from Northeast and West Bengal to New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Maha Rashtra, Kerala and other places. Why does a “small” amendment to a citizenship law trigger turmoil in half of India and also cause tension between India and its neighbors? This is related to the complexity of India’s current religious and ethnic conflicts, which originate from history and are catalyzed by practical factors, especially the Indian government’s push for Hindu nationalism. Chinese scholars who have studied the issue of India told the Global Times reporter that in the past, the inequality caused by the Indian caste system was very prominent, but now it has given way to the problem of religious contradictions.
Indo-Mu contradictions, from historical disputes to cruel reality
The “Amendment” is an amendment to India’s “Citizenship Law” of 1955. It is for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Tatars who came to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan due to religious persecution before December 31, 2014. That cult, martyr, and Christian provide Indian citizenship, and Muslims are not among them. There are as many as 200 million Muslims in India. So far, several states have been involved in the riots.
A traditional label for why the Amendment caused so much movement is an extension of the contradictions of the Indian (Hindu) Muslim (Muslim) for thousands of years. Opposition parties argued during the debate on the Amendment that Congress would legalize Muslims as second-class citizens and violate the constitutional basis of Indian pluralism. Some critics say that this is an attempt by the ruling People’s Party’s rising “Hindu identity” ideology to deliberately deprive Muslim groups of citizenship. Currently, the policy is not only resisted by urban elites and some middle classes, but local political parties and ethnic groups are also strongly opposed.
Historically, Muslim rulers have allowed a large number of Hindus to convert to Islam during the centuries that dominated the Indian subcontinent. The blood feuds and contradictions caused by them have continued to the present. After India’s independence, the Congress Party implemented a pluralist constitutional foundation, not divided by religion or ethnic group. Although there were many large-scale Indian-Muslim conflicts during this period, the overall contradiction eased.
The situation changed after the People’s Party came to power. Behind the People’s Party is the “National Volunteer Service”, a right-wing extremist nationalist organization established in 1925, which emphasizes Hinduism and strongly excludes Muslims. The People’s Party inherited its mantle. An important move of Modi’s first term was to rebuild the Temple of Rama, but it was not completed due to the excessive waste of banknotes. The original site of the temple in Ayodia, Uttar Pradesh, India, is believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Ramo. The temple was once built, but in 1527, the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty, Babur, ordered the temple to be demolished and established. Babri Mosque. Hindus have always wanted to rebuild the Temple of Rama. A national riot broke out in 1992, and the Babri Mosque was destroyed, killing more than 2,000 people.
The latest development of the issue is that in November this year, the Supreme Court of India awarded the land of the Babri Mosque to Hindus for the construction of the Temple of Rama, while another land was set aside for Muslims to build mosques. It is worth mentioning that in October last year, the Indian government renamed the Uttar Pradesh city “Allahabad” to “Prayagraj”. “Al⁃lah” (Allah) is the only deity of Islam. “Abad” has the meaning of place and apartment. The People’s Party claims that the Mughal dynasty, originally named for the ancient city, represents the Muslim ruler and has been renamed “Hindu victory.”
“Where’s the problem?” The Times of India on December 16 stated that there are very few people in India seeking citizenship due to religious persecution, with fewer than a few thousand people, and the number of protesters exceeds their unknown number. It turns out that the focus of the “Amendment” is not on the new citizenship law. The real purpose seems to be to solve the Muslim problem raised by the government early. It targets a large number of Muslim refugees from Bangladesh in Northeast states. These refugees are estimated at more than 1.9 million. Last year, the People’s Party put this matter on the agenda, and it is necessary to pass the Citizen Registration Law to re-screen the refugee status in the Northeast states. The Tribune of India mentioned that the “Amendment” came after Kashmir ’s repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution, the abolition of the Muslim “Triple Talak” (“immediate divorce law”) and the Rama Temple judgment. Events targeting Muslims.
Some Indian media have argued that along with India’s founding process, a large number of refugees from Pakistan have been resettled. These refugees compete with locals for land,
Water and cultural influence. In the 1960s, refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) flooded into Northeast India. Due to the unbearability of the Northeast, in 1964, India housed 4,000 Chakma (Tibetan-Burmese ethnic groups, divided into 46 clans and believes in theravada Buddhism) families in other regions. When they sought citizenship, they were opposed, brought to the Supreme Court, and still rejected. By 1991, more than 4,000 Chakma families had grown to 65,000, and as their numbers grew, their relationship with the locals also deteriorated.
Similar to the situation of the Chakma people, while the influx of Bangladeshi immigrants has changed the population structure of some states, it has also affected local identity and culture, especially Assam and Tripura. Today Assamese are reduced to ethnic minorities in Assam. From this perspective, the Indian government intends to curb the growth of the Muslim population in the region.
Assam: “natives” vs “foreigners”
In 1979, in an election in Assam, dissatisfaction with the participation of Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh in the polls led to up to six years of unrest. In 1985, the Indian government signed the Assam Agreement, allowing people who moved to Assam before Bangladesh declared independence (March 25, 1971) to obtain citizenship. This was later referred to as the “national identity authentication system” . The latest Amendment has laid the foundation for bringing the system to the whole country.
But labeling the current turmoil into Indian-Muslim contradictions is not enough to explain the whole issue. In the northeastern Indian state, riots have occurred. In addition to worrying about too many Muslim immigrants, the locals are also more afraid of the “invasion” of foreign Hindus.
As we all know, the Indian language system is very complicated. There are 22 official languages listed in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution, 14 non-official languages with a population of more than 5 million, and more than 2,000 dialects have been identified. In the past, India has divided administrative divisions according to language distribution. This strengthens the sense of identity of local ethnic groups, and also activates political parties and organizations that advocate local languages and cultures.
Assam is one of the most ethnically diverse states in India. Its 32 million inhabitants include Assamese and Bengali-speaking Hindus, members of various tribes, and Muslims who account for one-third of the population. Ethnic and citizenship issues have long troubled those who live there. Muslims have reasons to be dissatisfied with the Amendment, while Bengali-speaking Hindus feel that many of their ethnic groups are still excluded from citizenship, and local communities are concerned that once the Amendment is implemented, it will lead to more foreign immigrants The influx dilutes the demographic and cultural characteristics of the local ethnic group.
The Indian government believes that Bangladesh has been discriminating against Hindus since independence, and it has assumed that Hindus have flooded into Northeast India. From India’s point of view, these illegal immigrants of Hindus are not foreigners but refugees. Given that Northeast states have historically been very sensitive to immigration, the Amendment appears to address the problem of illegal immigration by providing non-Muslims with a legal basis to resolve their status. Unfortunately, this attempt poses greater problems. The reason for the opposition in the Northeast states is not constitutionality, but fear of being overridden by “outsiders”-whether the immigrants are Muslims or Hindus, from the Indian interior or Bangladesh.
Riots in West Bengal and elsewhere in India, as well as the National Congress Party and local political parties want to take the People’s Party’s “paving the road” and gaining political capital for elections. Modi issued five tweets on the 16th, defending that the “Amendment” was 1000% correct, and blamed the disturbances on the National Congress Party and other opposition parties. For the People’s Party, this was a huge victory for the party, but the problem is now complicated. Of course, in a state that belongs to the basic party of the People’s Party, the Amendment is conducive to consolidating its voters’ base. However, the problem in Assam is real, it is a key area, and dissatisfaction in the area will not disappear soon.
Some analysts believe that the move against Muslim immigrants has evolved into a campaign against “outsiders”, which is a common model faced by the current Indian government-announcing a “big” solution and then needing to solve bigger problems. One example is the waste of banknotes. Why is this happening? Indian media said it may be because the current government is not fully prepared. No matter how hasty or unwise, the People’s Party does have the ability to turn any action into some form of political advantage, but politics is not a panacea. Whoever is an Indian citizen is included.
Is secularization in India ending?
“The conflict between Muslims and Hindus has been a long-standing contradiction between India and Pakistan. The Modi government’s suppression of Muslims since it took office in 2014 has intensified this contradiction. A total outbreak of dissatisfaction with the Modi government. “Long Xingchun, director of the West China Normal University’s Indian Studies Center, said in an interview with a reporter from the Global Times. In addition, the riots in the northeastern regions such as Assam are mainly racial conflict . The race in the Northeast is mainly yellow, very similar to Chinese and Burmese, and different from Indians.
Long Xingchun said that the caste system that we often mentioned in the past is a “class oppression” problem in Hinduism. With economic and social development, people in lower castes in India have gained some opportunities and caste contradictions have eased. The main problem now is religious conflict, especially the Modi-led People’s Party’s unilateral emphasis on India’s “Hindu identity”, which is very disturbing for Muslims.
The Times of India said that the government seems to have miscalculated the situation in the face of the state’s protests. Because of this, Modi accidentally fell when attending a public event in the northern Indian city of Kanpur on December 14th, attracting ridicule from netizens-some people said that this implies that India’s economy is down; some people say that this shows that secularism is Decline. In addition, an unexpected aspect of the consequences of the Amendment was diplomacy: two Bangladeshi ministers cancelled their visit to India, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe postponed his trip to India. Anti-Amendment officials also pulled the banner in front of the Indian High Commission in London.
Some analysts believe that the Amendment is testing India-Bangladesh relations. The Indian Interior Minister has repeatedly stated that religious persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh has been one of the motivations for the “Amendment” and to “drive out” Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. On the 16th, Foreign Minister Abdullah of Bangladesh asked India to provide a list of Bangladeshi citizens who illegally live in India and allowed them to return to Bangladesh.
In 2014, Modi promised for the first election that India would be a natural home for all persecuted Hindus. After his election, India received at least 30,000 Hindus from neighboring countries. This extended the connotation of Hindu nationalism to a wider scope, and greatly strengthened the prestige of the People’s Party among Hindu voters. But for other religious believers, this seems to herald the end of Indian pluralism and secularization. As Bangladesh ’s Dawn newspaper states, “Undoubtedly, India is transforming into a Hindu country under Modi ’s supervision, and ethnic minorities are being marginalized.”
Long Xingchun had exchanges with Indian scholars on this topic. He said that many Indian scholars believe that the actions of the Modi government have undermined India’s stability, and that Muslims in India were relatively modest. This will force many people to be radical and cause more protests and even riots. When India became independent, it emphasized that it was a secular state and separated politics from religion. It did not recognize the existence of a “state religion.” Now the BJP wants to “religious” India, which is against tradition.