More than 20 people have died in India's protests against a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims. The law fast-tracks Indian citizenship for refugees fleeing persecution in neighboring countries, but only if they're Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian -- which critics say enshrines religious discrimination and threatens India's secular democracy.
You might expect to find the US, the leading secular democracy, at the front of the queue in condemning any measure making religion a criterion for citizenship. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama extolled US synergies with the world's largest democracy while forging new ties with India. Bush's administration even banned Narendra Modi -- then Gujarat state's chief minister -- from traveling to the US after he was accused of failing to stop Hindu riots targeting minority Muslims.
Trump however, has his own personal synergies with Modi; they even held hands at the Hindu nationalist prime minister's massive "Howdy Modi!" rally in Texas earlier this year. The US President has rarely met a nationalist movement that he didn't love (with the possible exception of Xi Jinping's plans to make China great again) and he sees New Delhi as a potential lynchpin of his administration's Indo-Pacific strategy to counter Beijing's influence. Plus, similarities between India's new law and his own 2016 campaign call for a ban on Muslims traveling to the US are hard to ignore.
The US ambassador at large for religious freedom has called on India specifically to abide by its constitutional commitments. But while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned repression of Muslims in other countries, he declined to criticize the citizenship law while meeting the Indian foreign minister here in Washington, last week. So far his boss is keeping quiet, too.
Postcard from India
The protests currently consuming India include a unique element: At every gathering, protestors young and old are reading out the constitution or singing the national anthem.
As demonstrators wave flags high in the air, their desperation over the threat to their country's secular identity hangs heavy. They bear banners evoking India's historic struggle for independence, and its pluralistic fabric today. "Save the constitution," they read. "Hindus and Muslims are brothers, why are you dividing us?"
Protestors are not just incensed over the passage of a law that introduces religious criteria into citizenship claims -- they fear that the ruling right-wing government is hijacking India's founding vision of diversity. -- CNN's Swati Gupti writes to Meanwhile from Delhi
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Thanks for reading and Happy Hanukkah to all who are celebrating. Winter break has emptied the US Senate and House, and not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. The President's at Mar-a-Lago for his holidays, so keep an eye out for tweets about impeachment trial delays. "The Dems wish it would all end," said he in a Sunday eruptus, "Their case is dead, their poll numbers are horrendous!"