The National Council of Churches in India, which is a fellowship of 30 churches representing 14 million people, is strongly against religion-based citizenship. Indian Christians have held this stand ever since the formation of India as an independent democratic republic. We strongly believe that any amendment to say legislation should keep in mind the secular ethos of the Constitution.
We believe that an India without its many multiplicities is not the India that we know and any attempt to homogenize religion, culture, language, and practices will only polarise communities. Any law which goes against this principle will harm the Indian living system.
The present Citizenship Amendment Act is projected as a measure to safeguard persecuted people from three neighboring countries. However, instead of persecution and suffering of people as a criterion, the Act has given special preference to people who belong to different religions including Christians. Although Christians are included, we understand the exclusion of some categories of people within this act polarizes communities based on faith and creed.
Moreover, the Act underlines the message that religion is the criteria to remain a citizen in this country. This is in contravention to the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution. As the core spirit of the Constitution is being challenged, the minorities will face even more anxiety and fear.
The reactions and protests in Northeast India point towards how the indigenous people of the region are skeptical of this Act and the National Register for Citizenship (NRC). We affirm the demands of indigenous communities to retain and celebrate their distinctive cultural and linguistic heritage and traditions. While the government is keen on a nationwide NRC exercise as a tool to build an "New India," many continue to live in fear of exclusion. Assam, which became the first demographic laboratory for the testing of NRC, is witnessing a lot of protests.
Furthermore, the present outbreak of protests from young people from university campuses against religion-based citizenship and the counteractions of police forces are creating havoc in society. We are concerned about the psychological trauma of the younger generations who witness the result of ruthless violence charged with communal fervor.
Therefore, we ask the Government to end any act of "othering" of the minorities to make for a peaceful atmosphere in India. The National Council of Churches in India assures our prayers and support for maintaining peace in our country. Also, we request our churches and organizations take efforts locally to ensure peace.
Rev. Dr. Abraham Mathew
Executive Secretary, Policy Governance and Public Witness
Rev. Asir Ebenazer
General Secretary, National Council of Churches in India