India’s Humane Law: Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019

India has recently amended its Citizenship Act of 1955 to include clauses whereby Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India illegally on or before the 31st of December, 2014, will not be treated as illegal immigrants; and they will be entitled to be citizens of India.

This act also shortens the residency requirement for future Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to 5 years, as compared to the normal 11 years for all other foreigners, to be eligible for Indian citizenship.

Why such a law? There is really no one sentence answer to this question, however long the sentence may be. So, let us try in a few paragraphs.

In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan, due primarily to the demand from most of the Muslim leaders to have a separate country for the Muslims. That country for the Muslims was Pakistan. That partition of the sub-continent, as the British colonial rulers left, was clearly a horrible disgrace in the history of mankind. Everywhere in the total subcontinental land lived Hindus, Muslims and a number of other religious communities. In order to make a country for the Muslims, non-Muslims had to leave what would be Pakistan, and Muslims had to move to what would be Pakistan from what would remain as India. Obviously most people did not want to move from their homes, and most who moved did it with a lot of resentments. The result was a lot of violence by otherwise ordinary people on their ordinary neighbors belonging in different religious communities. Heart-wrenching stories abound from that mayhem in 1947. The partition of India caused the largest sudden migration of humans in the history of the world.

While Pakistan was proclaimed to be for the Muslims, India as a nation remained home to all religious communities. Thus, while about two thirds of the Muslims of the subcontinent became citizens of Pakistan, the other third became citizens of India.

What followed over the decades to date was continued Islamization of the state of Pakistan, while India remained a religion-neutral state. The Indian subcontinent has an interesting and wrong definition of “secularism”. When they say “secular”, they do not really mean what the Cambridge English Dictionary definition of the term is, viz., “not having any connection with religion”; they mean “neutral to all religions”, which to them is equal respect for all religions.

How did the state mottos and behaviors of the two nations affect the populations? Due to neutrality to all religions in India, practically no migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan happened after the turbulent partition time of 1947, and the percentage of Muslims continued to rise in India. On the other hand, the state motto of Islam translated into discrimination, injustice, hatred and atrocities on non-Muslims in Pakistan, resulting into continued migration of non-Muslims from Pakistan to India, and continued decline in the percentage of non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Pakistan was an absurd creation. It had two wings. The western and eastern wings were separated by more than a thousand miles of India. While Islam was the common ground for the majority populations of the two wings, in terms of languages and cultures the two wings were very different. The differences transformed into a ruler-ruled kind of relationship, which ultimately resulted into the break-up of Pakistan, with the eastern wing becoming Bangladesh in 1971.

As both Hindus and Muslims of the eastern wing of Pakistan were discriminated against by the rulers from the western wing, there was a good deal of common ground for these two major communities of the eastern wing before the emergence of Bangladesh. Thus, the constitution of Bangladesh had secularism as a pillar in 1972, in spite of the Muslim population being seriously religious. India also played a vital role in the idea of secularism in Bangladesh. While the sovereign country of Bangladesh was pretty much forced onto East Pakistan by the Pakistani military brutality on the population, India played the vital role of actually liberating Bangladesh. Thus, secularism in Bangladesh constitution in 1972 clearly had a lot to do with trying to emulate that in India out of gratitude for India’s help in the very emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation.

However, secularism was dropped from the constitution of Bangladesh in 1975 when the founding leaders of Bangladesh were assassinated by a group of Islamic zealot military personnel. Ever since, Islam has been the principal political force of Bangladesh. Thus, discrimination, injustice, hatred and atrocities against non-Muslims have been going on more officially and frequently in that country since 1975. The current government claims respecting all religions while it operates under a constitution that begins with ‘in the name of Allah’ and proclaims Islam as the state religion! And, the criminal acts of illegal grabbing of non-Muslim properties, vandalizing non-Muslim places of worship and abducting non-Muslim girls and women continue to happen in Bangladesh with impunity, including by members and leaders of the governing political party.

The independence of Bangladesh made the non-Muslims of the land hopeful in 1972; however, it brought a curse on them as well. India adopted a policy of not granting persecuted Bangladeshi non-Muslim immigrants Indian citizenship because Bangladesh was supposed to be a friendly country where non-Muslims were supposed to be respected and from where non-Muslims would not be expected to migrate to India.

However, illegal migration of non-Muslims from Bangladesh to India never stopped for the reasons described above; and currently India has hundreds of thousands of such people. They have been living there for decades as stateless people without a legal status. What is Pakistan today (erstwhile West Pakistan) expelled most of the non-Muslims there in around 1947. The remaining non-Muslims there have been suffering worse than their Bangladeshi co-religionists. Afghanistan had even fewer non-Muslims in 1947. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are well-known hubs of Islamic fanaticism, injustice, hatred and terrorism. Migration of non-Muslims from these two countries to India have also been going on all along. However, by far the largest number of stateless people currently living in India are from Bangladesh.

Thus, a law that grants citizenship to persecuted and brutalized non-Muslim migrants to India from the neighboring countries was a humanitarian imperative for India.

As a post-script, it may be noted that currently India has a Hindutva-tainted government. However, people who care about humanity need to look at the message more than at the messenger. Keeping hundreds of thousands of victims of religious hatred as stateless people in India over decades has been a failure of secular humanism in the hands of Indian intellectuals and politicians that claimed to be secular. Such intellectuals and politicians as well as the humanists of the world at large now need to embrace this humane law, and not oppose it.

Hi, Sam, great write-up on the situation in India. We have a similar problem in the US with illegals, primarily from south of our border with Mexico, running away from violence and poverty. India’s amendment of its Citizenship Act does appear humane in contrast with President Trump’s immigration policy which has been condemned, in some circles both at home and abroad (including the Vatican).

You do realize that there is a big difference between the standard of living in America (GDP per capita US$59,531) and that of Mexico (US$8,902), which is not much better than those of the failed states of Central (Guatemala US$4470) and South America (Columbia US$6301). An “open arm” Indian policy would have consequences too horrific for me, as an American, to contemplate.

In the case of India, there is not much difference between the way of life in India (GDP per capita US$1939) and Bangladesh ($1516) or Pakistan ($1547). Opening India’s borders with her neigbors has no negative economic impact to Indians and may have positive social and political benefits for that Asian region.

Thanks for the history lesson, Sam. It sounds, to me, like a good and humane law for India.

We could not Constitutionally have an identical law in the US, because it involves discriminating against persons on account of religion (ironically, because it would discriminate against the abusive, violent, Muslims who inexorably, eventually, impose Islamic theocracy, wherever they can). Fortunately for us the Muslims are not yet targeting taking over the U.S. anytime soon.

Sree is just pattering on about his own partisan nonsense about how “horrific” it would be for the US to be more immigrant friendly. It is a common paranoia among the political right wing, that immigration is some kind of existential threat to the U.S. I am not sure what is so “horrifying” to him and his ilk, re: immigrants from countries with low standards of living. But it must be some highly imaginative terror in their minds.

I hope that your new Act is successful.


How would a humane law in the US identical to that for India involves discrimination against Muslims? Can you explain this, Tim?

Immigration is not a threat to the US. Invasion is. Poverty is, and social discord is.

I am all for open borders, not just for the US but for the whole world. I spend 6 months a year living abroad and wish every country would operate like Hong Kong: no visa, and visitors can either stay or come in whenever they want. We can do the same thing in America. Visitors with money will pour into the US and have a great time enjoying the good life. The economy will keep booming until folks start rioting in the streets in cities from San Francisco to New York. Why? Life is great but nobody is minding the store. And that’s ok if you have money and don’t need a country.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

Sree, if you were a loyal and patriotic U.S. citizen, like me, you would be aware of something called the 1st amendment to the Constitution. But as you are from Altrightia, I suppose you could care less about such a thing.

Oh my! We are being INVADED by little families from Central America who are desperately trying to survive. How can we ever survive such a horrible invasion?

Oh my! Social Discord is threatening our country! Too bad we have a POTUS who constantly and actively creates social discord in order to maintain and expand his political power.

Oh my! Poverty threatens our nation! Uh, really?

If people are rioting in the streets from San Fran to New York, any year soon, it won’t be immigrants that cause it, it will be because Donald John T rump has become our Dictator. Real Americans don’t appreciate Dictators.

How would the First Amendment, or any for that matter, be violated if the US Government passes a law declaring all illegals, of any faith or creed, currently in America can apply for citizenship? This is exactly what Sam said India has done for her illegals.

That answer should be obvious, but as you are from another culture, I will try to explain. The law that Sam is supporting, specifically cites several religions, i.e., “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians” and it excludes the religion of Muslims.

That law is all about religions. So what part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” do you not get?

We could have laws about immigrants, for sure, but NOT BASED ON THEIR RELIGION.


Little families need clothes, food and shelter Tim. And lunch at school for every child cost money. Are you paying any taxes? Even if you are, it’s not enough to go around because all our taxes are spoken for and not enough to cover existing expenses. Look, if your job doesn’t pay you enough to feed your own kids, what would your wife say if you brought in, from the local children’s home, three more mouths to feed? It would be big-hearted of you and, who knows, your wife might even feel good about it all. God may even bless you with a windfall. Too bad, you don’t believe in the BS. Right?

Are you suggesting that Central Americans would be incapable of working in the US, if they were allowed to?

The USA has always taken in migrants. They are a part of who we are. They add to our society. And since I am collecting Social Security, and you young sprouts have not produced enough babies, we need to add to our working population to keep funding it.

Oh sorry, the immigrants are not white enough for you, maybe? You should have been popping out more little Sprees.

Tim said: “The law that Sam is supporting, specifically cites several religions, i.e., “Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians” and it excludes the religion of Muslims.”

Ok, you are right about the Indian law. I just checked it out. It does exclude Muslims which is pretty dumb. I must have been thrown off by Sam’s qualifying that law as humane. I was not suggesting that we ape India in the same discriminatory fashion should we open our doors to illegals.

Timsaid: “Are you suggesting that Central Americans would be incapable of working in the US, if they were allowed to?”

Oh no, they work fine. I daresay illegal Central Americans work better than those fully-assimilated third-generation Guatemalan Americans cruising around in the Bronx.

Ok. Sree. We all make mistakes. It is a good sign that someone from Altrightia can admit it.

I don’t blame India for trying to pass that law. They are not the USA. They don’t have our Constitution. And Muslims taking over countries and establishing theocratic govts is a monstrous threat in their part of the world.

Little Central American families, however, have not been known to take over countries and then establish a theocracy. So I don’t see a valid comparison there.

I don’t know anything about 3rd generation Guatemalans in the Bronx. Are they scary?


Thanks for your comments and for wishing success for this Act. I was actually born in Bangladesh, came to the USA directly from there in 1981 as a student, and have been a US citizen over the last 23 years. But many of my family, friends and neighbors went to India. The ones that went after 1972 were all illegal immigrants there, some with no passport and some with passport and visa but overstayed.

I actually disagree with you when you write, “We could not Constitutionally have an identical law in the US, because it involves discriminating against persons on account of religion (ironically, because it would discriminate against the abusive, violent, Muslims who inexorably, eventually, impose Islamic theocracy, wherever they can).” In fact, Indians who have been protecting against this Act are doing so because they also think/claim that it involves discriminating against persons on account of religion. I disagree with them as well. Making a distinction between victims of religious hatred and non-victims of the same is not the same as discrimination based upon religious identity. This Act does not provide preferences based upon religions, it provides preferences based upon victimhood due to religious hatred, which is a core secular and humanist value. If there were no such victims, all religious groups should have gotten the same consideration. India’s additional humanitarian and honorable consideration was the fact that the victims have been living in India over decades as stateless people who could stay there illegally with limited human rights, such as no way to travel outside of India, as they could not get Indian passport.

In fact, the purpose of this Act is somewhat like we at CFI supported rational humanist bloggers whose lives were under threat in Bangladesh.

I do not agree with Sree on the point that you are criticizing. But I will respond to him a bit later.


Thank you, Sree, for your compliments and comments.

I think there is a big difference between the illegal immigrants covered by this new Indian Act and those entering the USA illegally at the southern border. The former are due to religious persecution and the latter are due to gang violence and poverty.

I think neither India nor the USA should have an open border/arm policy. I also think that both India and the USA should help victims of hatred and brutality, irrespective of who offended and brutalized them; and for that GDP differences between the USA and the country of origin should not be a factor.

As for discrimination against Muslims, I think the USA should try its best to ensure that seriously fanatic and hateful people are excluded. That would be discrimination based upon religion; but that should be done. We should make a distinction between Muslims that are good due to not following some verses of what they think as holy books and those that are willing to hate and commit crimes due to their insistence on following everything in their so-called holy books.

Oh, on the 1st Amendment, I think it is about time for the civilized world to care about human dignity and rights more than about freedom of religion. In fact, the West is more civilized, at least in terms of domestic policies and laws, than most other nations on Earth mostly because a lot of people, intellectuals and politicians do not believe in the injustice, hatred and atrocities that quite a few of the major books of religions contain. It is OK to truncate freedom of religion, and the West has been doing it already (voluntarily through rational thinking).

Sam, I agree with your points in spirit, but on our Constitution, we patriotic U.S. Americans, honor it. Though, these days 1/2 of our political leaders break their oath to it.

My point is in part a technicality, I suppose. Clearly your law, as described, would not be consistent with our 1st Amendment. But a law that functioned a similar way might be designed. A while back, our impulsive fool of a President, tried to pass a Muslim ban. He intended to ban all Muslims from entering the country. He couldn’t get it past the Courts. So he changed it up until he had something that the courts would not shut down. He limited entrance to the USA from certain countries, but not obviously on the basis of their religion. Or if we really really needed to, we could try to amend our Constitution, some more.

Tim, my friend, we are not talking about my law! It is an Indian law, and I was never an Indian citizen.

In any case, this kind of a law would not actually violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This law does not respect establishing or prohibiting any religion. It provides help to some people victimized by religious persecution and brutality. It does not establish the victim’s religion, nor does it prohibit the offender’s religion.

As for patriotism, it is the duty of the patriotic people and politicians to improve laws - criticizing an existing law or proposing amending/voiding an existing law does not make one unpatriotic.