An ecumenical forum wants applicants to be judged on the merit of their cases, not on the basis of their religious affiliation. India’s amended citizenship law has sparked widespread protests across the country because Muslim migrants are excluded. Giving citizenship to all illegal migrants could bring justice and promote equality.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – An ecumenical group that represents all Christian denominations in Karnataka is calling on the Indian government to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants on the merit of each individual case and not on the basis of religious affiliation.
Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore, president of the Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights, issued the appeal yesterday. This follows the adoption by the Indian parliament on 12 December of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which modifies India’s citizenship law.
The ecumenical forum appreciates the reduction in waiting time from 11 to five years to acquire Indian citizenship, but highlights the danger of an amendment that has sparked widespread protests across the country because of its negative impact on Muslims.
Many believe that appeals by Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) should not be ignored. The prelate warns about the "danger of polarisation of our people along religious lines, which is very harmful for the country".
For the forum, “Religion should never be the criterion for citizenship of a country. Nor is violence a solution when there is a difference of opinion.”
Instead, “It is necessary that the Government dialogues [sic] with those opposing the Act, and come to an agreement about the way forward with justice, equity and fairness. There is no harm in backtracking: changing course if this is necessary for the good of the country and our people.”
According to the group, illegal migrants should be able to apply for Indian citizenship on the merit of their case, not on the basis of their religions. For Mgr Machado, such a move would bring justice to all illegal migrants and promote equality between them.
Furthermore, the government should be able to “convince the citizens of the country that it upholds the sacredness of the Constitution and respects the rights of all the linguistic and religious minorities without any discrimination.