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History | Geography | Citizenship | RE

Protest sweeps India over ‘anti-Muslim law’

Is India becoming a racist state? A new citizenship law has sparked protest across India. The government says it protects persecuted minorities; opponents say it is racist and anti-Muslim. They were studying quietly in the library when the police attacked. Students at a Muslim university in DelhiThe capital of India. By some estimates, Delhi is the second-largest city in the world. climbed over desks to escape riot officers armed with teargas and batons. Other students were beaten whilst praying in the mosque on campus. That was Sunday. This week, the protests have spread. In cities across India, schools and offices closed; streets were barricaded, and protesters clashed with police. But what is it all about? A new law has just been passed allowing migrants from neighbouring countries to become Indian citizens. As long as they are not Muslim. The government says it is protecting religious minorities in Muslim countries from persecution. Critics say it discriminates against Muslims and treats them like second-class citizens. And they fear what may come next. India is the world's largest democracy, sixth-biggest economy and fast becoming a global superpower. But is it also becoming a racist country? Home to all the world's major religions - including 200 million Muslims - religious tolerance and a secularA word used to describe something that is not connected with the religious or spiritual sphere. constitutionA document that sets out the fundamental rules according to which a country is governed, which are usually difficult to change. have been key parts of its national identity. But in 2014, populistThe term comes from the People's Party, which operated in the USA in the 1890s. Now, it is often used to refer to any movement that makes a distinction between the "people" and the corrupt "establishment". Narendra Modi's BJPThe Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party) is the ruling political party of India, led by Narendra Modi. It follows a right-wing Hindu nationalist ideology. won national elections. The world's largest political party, the BJP wants to remake India as a Hindu nation. Over the last six years, many of its policies have targeted India's Muslim minority. These policies have been widely condemned. The UNUnited Nations. An intergovernmental organisation based in New York that aims to maintain international peace and security. calls them "fundamentally discriminatory". Modi says, "Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy", but these protests are violent and unacceptable, stirred up by opposition parties "spreading lies, creating an atmosphere of fear for Muslims". He says, "No Indian has anything to worry [about] regarding this act." And the language being used is explosive. The opposition Congress Party called the government "fascists", and the writer Arundhati Roy compares the law to the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany. The head of West Bengal said it would be implemented "over my dead body". So is India becoming a racist state? On the brink? Some say India is already racist and getting worse. A law discriminating between Muslim and non-Muslim migrants is a major step towards Hindu nationalism. Muslims are already being treated like second-class citizens, unable to protest, study or pray peacefully. The next step will be to force all Indian Muslims to prove they are citizens. If not, they may be expelled from their own country. This is scaremongering, say others. India isn't China. It has strong, democratic institutions; free and fair elections, and an independent press. If the law breaks the constitution, it will be overturned in the courts and regional governments have already said they will not implement it. And if the BJP pass more extreme laws, the Indian electorate will throw them out of office at the next election. KeywordsDelhi - The capital of India. By some estimates, Delhi is the second-largest city in the world.

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