India Asks Citizens to Prove Indian-ness

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India Asks Citizens to Prove Indian-ness

India’s right-wing President Narendra Modi is seeking to introduce a new citizenship law that will create a national population database in an attempt to define the country’s some 1.3 billion inhabitants, some of whom the government is accused of finding more desirable than others.

 

Especially since the partition of the former British Raj into Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, ethnic and religious differences have plagued the country and been the source of many outbreaks of extreme violence. 

 

It’s still a powder-keg issue today, that’s why the government has sought to remedy this by pushing for ever-more invidious notions of what it is to be ‘Indian’ in an updated caste system brought in by stealth.  

 

The proposed National Population Register (NPR) sees ‘usual residents’ as people who have been living in a given area of the country for more than six months, which actually includes foreigners who are living in India. 

 

The change to legislation has sparked demonstrations across the country, with nineteen people dying in acts of alleged police brutality in Utter Pradesh in recent weeks. A number of Muslim protestors face having their property confiscated after being handed ‘unpayable’ fines for vandalism to police equipment. 

 

It’s one thing to attack someone with a police baton, but to then bill them for the damaged weapon takes authoritarianism to a whole new paradigm. 

 

In a move that would make the leadership of their neighbours in China smile, the government shut down all cellular phone coverage in numerous cities  to hinder the organisation of largely peaceful protests. 

 

Last week a Norwegian tourist, Jean-Mette Johansson, 71, was ordered to leave India when she took part in a peaceful demonstration against the law which critics have branded discriminatory to the countries 200 million Muslims. 

 

But this is not the first time that India has expelled Europeans for involving themselves in its internal affairs… old habits. 

 

Meanwhile, protests across India continue with some 200,000 tourists cancelling plans to visit famous sights such as the Taj Mahal in recent weeks, likely over concerns that major cities will be unsafe with ongoing demonstrations. 

 

Though to call the massively overpopulated cities of India ‘safe’ at the best of times might be an overstatement. 

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