Although the sole Christian member on the National Commission for Minorities claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is being welcomed by the community, some major church groups disagreed, saying that the Act contravenes the secular ethos of the Constitution and has “roused fears” among all minorities, Dalits and tribal people.
Christians are among the six communities which are included under the law, as eligible for expedited citizenship if they are refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. Muslims are the only major religious community left out of the Act.
“Citizenship Amendment Act is good for Christians and should be welcomed by all,” said George Kurian, the NCM Vice-Chairman, who has been a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala.
In a statement on Monday, he said the Commission had been flooded with messages from Christian leaders of all denominations across the country welcoming the new legislation. “They tell me ‘justice has finally been done to Christians who are victims of draconian blasphemy laws, religious conversions and abductions’,” he said.
The National Council of Churches in India, an ecumenical forum of Protestant and Orthodox churches which represents 1.4 crore Indians, said it opposed the legislation, though it gave a preference to Christians.
"Although Christians are included, we understand the exclusion of some categories of people within this Act is polarising communities based on faith and creed," said the NCCI in a strongly worded statement on Tuesday. "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."
Taking note of widespread protests by students and in the north-east, the NCCI called on the government to "end any action of othering of the minorities" to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the country.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India said it “shared the nation’s concern” it will impact a large number of Indian citizens.
EFI is a national alliance of evangelical Christians whose membership includes 54 Protestant denominations and more than 65,000 churches across the country.
In a statement on Monday, EFI said that the government's recent actions had roused fears among all minorities, tribals and Dalits. It warned of the "cumulative impact" of recent events in Kashmir, the "dangerous experiment" of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the threats to do away with the two seats reserved for Anglo Indians in legislative bodies.
"While the Prime Minister and Home Minister keep on assuring that the citizens need not fear, the pronouncements of political leadership and their frontal organisations, on the contrary, aggravate the fears," said the statement, adding that the government should instead focus on restoring the peace and taking urgent steps to stabilise the economy, reduce prices and revive employment.