Over 200 Christian leaders in India have condemned the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, which has sparked protests across the country.
The leaders, including philosophers, priests, theologians, former government officials, academics, and lawyers, also condemned what they called a violent state response against students and civil society activists protesting the legislation.
As many as 25 people have died in nearly two weeks of demonstrations and violence across India.
The signatories include George Pattery, head of the Jesuits in India; philosopher TK
John; human rights activist John Dayal; Evangelical Fellowship of India general secretary
Vijayesh Lal; academics Michael Williams, Annie Koshi, Sunny Jacob, and Denzil
Fernandez; former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission AC Michael; theologians John
Chathanatt, CB Samuel, and Rajah Chellamani; and lawyers Jose Chiramel, PI Jose, and Pramod
The statement condemned what it called the brutal police and para-military repression of
peaceful protests in cities and universities across India, including Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.
“We express our solidarity with the students and others who have been grievously injured and
pray for their speedy recovery,” said Father Pattery.
“When the government was re-elected in May 2019, there have been several controversial [pieces of] legislation passed by parliament leading to the collapse of the democratic institutions of India, which have been carefully and painstakingly built by enlightened leaders over the last seven decades,” Pattery said.
The new law provides a path to citizenship for Buddhist, Christian Hindu, Jain, Parsi, and Sikh practitioners, but not Muslims, fleeing persecution from three neighboring states.
Critics say the amendment discriminates against the country’s 200-million strong Muslim minority and violates the secular foundations of the Indian state.
Opponents of the legislation further charge it is part of efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to transform India into a Hindu state.
“The letter and spirit of the constitution, framed by men and women who had participated in the
freedom struggle, cannot be thrown out at the whims of a particular ideology. We are deeply
saddened at the haste in which the president of India gave his assent [to the bill],” said Daya.