KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday (Dec 20) questioned the need for a citizenship law in India that is seen as discriminatory against Muslims, Malaysian media reported.
"I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship," Dr Mahathir was cited as saying in The Star.
Speaking on the sidelines of Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019, he said that “already people are dying because of this law" and questioned the need for the legislation.
"All this while, for 70 years almost, they have lived together as citizens without any problems," said Dr Mahathir.
READ: Defiant Indians protest nationwide against citizenship law
Under the new law, religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had settled in India prior to 2015 will have a path to Indian citizenship on grounds they face persecution in those countries.
Critics say the law, which does not make the same provision for Muslims, weakens India's secular foundations.
Opponents see the law as the latest step by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to marginalise Muslims, who make up 14 per cent of India’s population.
"If we do that here, you know what will happen. There will be chaos, there will be instability and everyone will suffer," added Dr Mahathir.
He also said that Malaysia has accepted immigrants from India and China "even when they don't qualify", adding that "they are all in the government", reported the Malay Mail.
Fourteen people have died as of Friday in more than a week of clashes between Indian police and demonstrators.
The authorities have shut down the Internet in parts of northern India and imposed a curfew in a southern city.