New Delhi: International media reacted to the Lok Sabha passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, with a brazen acceptance of what the piece of legislation stood for.
The New York Times was notably strong in its criticism and ran the headline, ‘India Steps Toward Making Naturalization Harder for Muslims’. In choosing to highlight what the Bill chooses to not do (consider Muslims who are persecuted) instead of what it does (offer citizenship to non-Muslim refugees fleeing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan), the report in one of the world’s most highly respected newspapers counters Union home minister Amit Shah’s fervent assertion in Lok Sabha that the bill’s basis is “reasonable classification.”
The report by Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj calls the passage of the Bill in the lower house,
“…the most significant move yet to profoundly alter India’s secular nature enshrined by its founding leaders when the country gained independence in 1947.”
The report goes on to quote AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been vocal in parliament against the bill.
The NYT report runs on lines similar to that on the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Zarir Hussain and Abhirup Roy, and headlined, “Protests erupt as India looks to block citizenship for Muslims”.
Describing the journey that the Bill has had, the report says:
“Shah and Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which had included the CAB as part of its manifesto in the last general election, insist that it is necessary.”
Agencies like Agence France-Presse, whose reports were picked up by newspapers worldwide like The Guardian, highlighted the protests in the northeastern states over the Bill. Vivid descriptions of outbursts of boiling anger in the region accompanied an explanation as to the essential difference in reasons why the northeast and the rest of India were protesting against the Bill.
While Assam and the northeastern states fear an influx of foreigners, others point out that the Bill discriminates against Muslim refugees.
“Modi’s government says Muslims are excluded because they do not face persecution in these three countries,” the report tacitly states.
The Wall Street Journal too, focused on the protests surrounding the Bill and delineated the exact percentage of those the Bill sought to leave in great concern of their status in the country – the 14% Muslims in India.
The Washington Post also gave lengthy coverage to the protests surrounding the Bill in its international edition, capping it with an opinions editorial by journalist Barkha Dutt which was published as the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, searingly headlined, “India has just cast itself in Pakistan’s image.”
The Beijing-headquartered China Daily also ran a Bloomberg report on the protests surrounding the Bill.
“As for Modi, it’s a third major move out of his right wing playbook since retaining power earlier this year that adversely affects the country’s Muslim minority population,” the report reads.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, while at once chronicling the Bill’s progress through debates and protests, carried a criticism of the Bill by Aman Wadud, headlined, “India’s Citizenship Bill has only one aim: protect non-Muslims, harass Muslims.”