The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India enters the crucial phase of electioneering with the country perhaps never being as polarised as it is now. Nudged by the extreme right, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the BJP has shown an exceptional penchant for accentuating divisions rather than building bridges in a complex and highly diverse society. Policies are being pursued and laws framed to advance the long yearned agenda of the Hindutva. The latest in the armoury is the Citizenship amendment bill passed in the Lok Sabha which now ready for placing in the Rajya Sabha. The amended bill seeks to grant fast tracked citizenship to members of the Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Buddhist communities if they happened to be from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The amendment is religion and country specific with far reaching implications. The bill tends to provide Indian citizenship to individuals who were, subjected to faith based persecution in their home country before they moved to India. The move whereas excludes thousands of persecuted Rohingya Muslims, undocumented Nepalese and Sri Lankans who had been living in India for so many years. The passage of the bill has led to violent protests in the North Eastern states — especially in Assam and Tripura — resulting in casualties and persistent tension. Ethnic based politics in these states have very little room for the religion card as Hindus and Muslims of these states are vehemently opposed to the move and settlement of outsiders in their states. About four million undocumented migrants from Bangladesh are living in the North East. In some of the districts in Assam, outsiders have outnumbered the local population. Any move to give them legal status, as feared by the locals, may well swarm the indigenous population in years to come. It may well threaten their identity and ownership rights. The bill does not fully take into account the various reasons as why the people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan or Pakistan may have moved to India. The issue of undocumented Bengali migrants in these states can be traced back to the 1971 war which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of Bengalis from erstwhile East Pakistan crossed over to Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura, the three adjoining eastern Indian states. Despite Hinduism being the major religion in these states, the people in general don’t subscribe to the philosophy of Hindutva which could strike at their cultural identity, political and economic rights by giving citizenship rights to undocumented aliens even if they were their co-religionists. According to forecasts, in thirty years Pakistan will have the fourth largest Hindu population in the world, touching the figure of 5.6 million The amendment bill at the same time, doesn’t sync well with Article 14, of the constitution which underscores right to equality, including to the foreigners. They cannot be discriminated against either on the basis of caste, creed and their religion. The law may well be struck down by the courts. But by that time it would have met its objective; galvanised support for the extreme right in the Hindu belt and reenforced Hindutva with a close call to the general elections. Distrust of the over forty million population of north eastern states, 3 percent of the grand swathe, is far smaller a price than pleasing the Hindu vote bank elsewhere in the country. The amended bill raises questions about the secular credentials of neighbouring Bangladesh. The ruling Awami League has enjoyed fairly warm and friendly relations with India, especially the BJP. Public celebrations of Hindu festivals and attendant events in recent years had been on the rise in the country. On my last visit to Bangladesh,I could see an eventful festivity marking the celebrations of Durga Puja in Dhaka and as farther away in Cox’s Bazar. Plea of persecution doesn’t go well with the vast majority of economic migrants from Bangladesh. With Pakistan, Hindus would be one of the main beneficiaries of the Citizenship Bill.It would be prudent to analyse whether there had been any significant exodus from the country to India.There are some interesting details which show that the size of the Hindu population on balance had been fairly stable. Hindu population in the country according to provisional figures of the 2017 census, consists of 1.92 percent of the total swathe of 207 million, while according to the 1998 census, it was 1.6 percent of the total population of 130 million. Sindh has the maximum number, where district Umarkot has a 48 percent Hindu population followed by Tharparkar with 40 percent and Mirpurkhas 33 percent. Things may well be far from ideal but the Hindus and the Muslims largely had been living in amity. Syncretic province of Sindh is known for Hindu Muslim amity with vast majority of the Hindus following the teachings of Sufis and Peers. According to forecasts, in thirty years time, Pakistan will have the fourth largest Hindu population in the world, touching the figure of 5.6 million. In the case of Afghanistan, the driving force for exodus from the country has been altogether different. The country had been victim of unabated civil war which has battered the Muslims in the country justas adversely. Granting citizenship to aliens is a prerogative of the government. It can be fast tracked on case to case basis. Making a discriminatory provision for the protection of minorities and that too country specific, may not go well in the ultimate analysis. More so when the incumbent BJP government’s record of treating its own minorities and low caste Dalits has not been as enviable. Renowned Indian writer and thinker, Arundhati Roy in a recent interview with the BBC shared her grief about the treatment being meted out to Muslims. She was at pains to explain the way the Muslims in India were being ghettoised. They were being lynched in the streets and pushed out of economic activity. While recalling the rape of a Muslim Kashmiri girl in a temple last year, she recounted how thousands of protestors including women marched on the streets in support of the alleged rapists. According to reports two BJP state ministers also joined the rally. Such an abysmal fall at the societal level through a deliberate rally and a march should have been a matter of deep worry for the mainstream intelligentsia in the country. Polarised India at this critical moment has to come up with an answer for its genuinely concerned and level headed citizens. Where is the country heading for and with what results? As a big stake holder in South Asia, what message does India have for the rest of the neighbourhood! The writer is an author, former federal interior Secretary Published in Daily Times, February 7th 2019.