Inside Story

Are the foundations of India’s secular democracy crumbling?

Gov’t says the controversial citizenship bill will protect minorities, critics say it discriminates against Muslims.

The lower house of India’s parliament has approved a controversial law that the government says offers a home for people fleeing religious persecution but which opponents say undermines the country’s secular identity.

The bill, which still must be approved by Parliament’s upper house, would bring sweeping changes to India’s 64-year-old citizenship law by allowing undocumented immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to obtain Indian nationality, but only if they are members of religious minorities in the countries they fled.

Thus, it would offer protection to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, Buddhists and Christians – but not to Muslims.

Critics say it is the latest effort by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to move modern India away from its secular roots and towards an explicitly Hindu-nationalist agenda.

Are the foundations of India’s secular democracy crumbling?

Presenter: Halla Mohieddeen


Harsh Mander – Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi

Ronan Lee – Queen Mary University, London 

Sreeram Chaulia – Jindal School of International Affairs, Sonipat