New Delhi: After the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, late Monday, foreign media carried mixed responses. Some newspapers, particularly in the United States, were critical of the move, while others simply reported on the contentious bill.
India has found itself under the critical eye of the foreign media frequently in the past few months, specifically after the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370, ridding Jammu & Kashmir of its special status. The Hyderabad and Unnao rape cases were also widely reported.
The citizenship bill is another such instance where India is being criticised for its “biased” and “unfair” treatment of Muslims. The bill aims to give refuge to illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian, but omits Muslims.
The move has prompted protests in many parts of the country, especially the Northeast — in Assam protesters took out ‘funeral processions’ for state CM Sarbananda Sonowal, for his alleged failure to oppose the bill.
Major foreign media organisations focused on the communal angle of the bill.
The New York Times’ headline read, ‘India takes steps towards blocking naturalisation for Muslims’. The report assigned majoritarian motives to the BJP, stating: “A bill establishing a religious test for immigrants has passed the lower house of Parliament, a major step for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda.”
TIME’s headline read ‘India’s government wants to block some Muslims from citizenship’, with the report adding that the CAB is “Modi’s biggest effort yet to change the religious and social makeup of India in line with Hindu nationalist beliefs”.
CBS News went with, ‘Indian government pushing new immigration law that would single out Muslims’. The article pointed to critics’ line that the move is unconstitutional. “India’s Hindu nationalist government is seeking changes in the country’s citizenship laws that critics call unconstitutional and anti-Muslim.”
In the United Kingdom, The Guardian said ‘India braces for protests over citizenship bill excluding Muslims’, while BBC News stated “Citizenship Amendment Bill: India’s new ‘anti-Muslim’ law causes uproar”.
Pakistan and Bangladesh, which would be directly affected if the citizenship bill is passed in Rajya Sabha as well, reported the development too. Pakistani newspaper DAWN covered the uproar against the passing of the bill saying, ‘Protests erupt as India pushes for religion-based citizenship bill’.
It also said “Pakistan condemns ‘regressive, discriminatory’ nationality bill passed by India’s lower house”, saying it was “driven by a toxic mix of an extremist Hindutva ideology”. Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday that the legislation “violates all norms of international human rights law and bilateral agreements with Pakistan”.
Bangladeshi newspapers had simpler, straightforward headlines. Daily Star said, ‘BJP’s Citizenship Bill and Identity Politics’, while Prothom Alo read ‘India approves citizenship amendment bill’.
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