Rahila Gupta

Women are leading the fight to protect India’s secular constitution


New Humanist, 2nd March 2020

The Citizenship Amendment Act is only part of President Modi’s assault on the secular underpinnings of the Indian constitution.

Image: Sanjeev Yadav

Names of those killed in protests on an India Gate artwork on 11 Jan 2020.

Walls – physical, digital, bureaucratic – are going up all over the world, dividing citizen from citizen. The very notion of citizenship is being questioned and restricted. India is no exception but the rising death toll and extensive unrest in Delhi shows that ordinary people are prepared to risk their lives to stand against this onslaught.

Three intertwined provocations – the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR) – introduced by the Hindu supremacist BJP government of Narendra Modi have brought us to this point.

The CAA, passed in December 2019, stripped away the secular underpinnings of the Indian constitution by defining citizenship in terms of religion. Sold by the BJP government as a welcoming gesture to refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, it extended only to religious denominations such as Hindus, Christians and Sikhs. Muslims and atheists were specifically excluded.

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