In­dia passes cit­i­zen­ship bill amid vi­o­lent protests

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Guwahati, In­dia - In­dia’s par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day passed a bill that seeks to grant cit­i­zen­ship to re­li­gious mi­nori­ties from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, as hun­dreds of troops were de­ployed in the north­east which has been hit by vi­o­lent protests.

The bill will let the In­dian govern­ment grant cit­i­zen­ship to mil­lions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants who en­tered In­dia from three neigh­bour­ing coun­tries before 2015 - but not if they are Mus­lim.

The leg­is­la­tion was passed 125-105 by the up­per house, af­ter the lower house voted in sup­port of it just af­ter mid­night on Tues­day. It will be sent to the Pres­i­dent to be signed into law, with his ap­proval seen as a for­mal­ity.

‘A land­mark day for In­dia and our na­tion’s ethos of com­pas­sion and brother­hood!’ Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi tweeted.

‘This Bill will al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of many who faced per­se­cu­tion for years’.

Op­po­nents of the leg­is­la­tion have threat­ened to chal­lenge it in the Supreme Court, say­ing it vi­o­lates the prin­ci­ples of equal­ity and sec­u­lar­ism en­shrined in the con­sti­tu­tion.

The pro­posed changes have also led to demon­stra­tions in the north­east­ern states where res­i­dents are un­happy about an in­flux of Hin­dus from neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh who stand to gain cit­i­zen­ship un­der the Cit­i­zen­ship Amend­ment Bill (CAB).

In a third day of protests in the re­gion, sev­eral hun­dred troops were de­ployed in the state of Tripura and in Guwahati, As­sam’s big­gest city, an army of­fi­cial said.

Po­lice fired tear gas in dif­fer­ent parts of Guwahati as sev­eral thou­sand de­mon­stra­tors attempted to barge past se­cu­rity bar­ri­ers to con­verge on the state cap­i­tal Dis­pur.

Tripura and parts of As­sam suspended mo­bile In­ter­net ser­vices, with As­sam want­ing to avoid so­cial me­dia posts that could ‘in­flame pas­sions’. Gath­er­ings of more than four peo­ple were banned for 24 hours.

“We ap­peal to all the stu­dents, civil­ians, tea gar­den work­ers and all sec­tions of the so­ci­ety to come out to the streets again to­mor­row to protest,” lo­cal ac­tivist Akhil Go­goi said ahead of the up­per house vote.

Modi’s govern­ment says Mus­lims from Afghanista­n, Bangladesh and Pak­istan are ex­cluded from the leg­is­la­tion be­cause they do not face dis­crim­i­na­tion in those coun­tries. Also left out are other mi­nori­ties flee­ing po­lit­i­cal or re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion else­where in the re­gion.

A cit­i­zens’ reg­is­ter in As­sam fi­nalised this year left 1.9mn peo­ple fac­ing pos­si­ble state­less­ness, de­ten­tion camps and even de­por­ta­tion. Modi’s govern­ment has said it in­tends to repli­cate the reg­is­ter na­tion­wide with the aim of re­mov­ing all ‘in­fil­tra­tors’ by 2024. Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand-man and Home Min­is­ter, has likened il­le­gal im­mi­grants to ‘ter­mites’.

“The In­dian govern­ment is cre­at­ing le­gal grounds to strip mil­lions of Mus­lims of the fun­da­men­tal right of equal ac­cess to cit­i­zen­ship,” Hu­man Rights Watch said on Wed­nes­day.

The US Com­mis­sion on In­ter­na­tional Re­li­gious Free­dom termed the bill as a ‘dan­ger­ous turn in the wrong di­rec­tion’.

In­dia’s For­eign Min­istry re­torted that the re­marks were ‘nei­ther ac­cu­rate nor war­ranted’ and ‘guided by their prej­u­dices and bi­ases’.

A land­mark day for In­dia and our na­tion’s ethos of com­pas­sion and brother­hood

(AFP)

Peo­ple protest against the Cit­i­zen­ship Amend­ment Bill in Guwahati on Wed­nes­day

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