Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

India's lower house passes citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

India's lower house passes citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was tabled in Parliament on Monday after being cleared by a joint parliamentary committee report set up to examine it.

The AGP's decision was announced by its president and state agriculture minister Atul Bora after his meeting with Union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. The bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, proposes to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan after six years of residence in the India, even if they do not have the requisite documents.

The bill is likely to come up in the Lok Sabha tomorrow which is the scheduled last day of the winter session of Parliament.

Protesters burned copies of the legislation in angry marches across Assam state, where millions have settled in recent decades after fleeing neighbouring Muslim-majority nations. Another group of people protested outside the Assam Bhavan in Chanakyapuri, waving black flags and raising slogans.

Critics have called the proposal, contained in the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May. The police said the CRPF and Tripura State Rifles jawans resorted to lathi charge and burst teargas shells to bring the situation under control before the firing. The AASU declined to be part of the committee until the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 is scrapped.

The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where almost 4 million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectivelystripped of their citizenship a year ago. We were doing that while staying with the government.

Reacting to the Asom Gana Parishad's departure from the alliance, BJP spokeperson Rupam Goswami said while its "doors are always open", it can not force anyone to stay in an alliance with it. "AGP had shown signs of friendship with the Congress in the panchayat elections itself, so it is not surprising", he said. The indigenous people have been opposing the bill as they feel that granting citizenship status to immigrants will erode their limited opportunities in terms of employment and other social benefits.

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Several students" bodies of the region have made a decision to observe the "bandh' in support of the call given by the North East Students' Organisation (NESO), an umbrella organisation of students' unions, of which the AASU is a constituent.

Samujjal Bhattacharya, leader of the All Assam Students Union, said that providing residency and citizenship rights to undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, with which Assam state shares a long border, would threaten indigenous communities. They also pelted stones in many parts of Assam.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI (M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can't be given on the basis of religion and that it is unconstitutional.

Same was the scene in most of the capital cities of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya where the bandh had substantial impact.

The AGP had entered into an alliance with the BJP before the 2014 polls and was opposed to the Bill since the beginning.

Members of Asom Yuba Chatra Parishad staged a nude protest against the Bill at Tinsukia in Upper Assam, and in Delhi, too, some of the demonstrators stripped naked outside Parliament.

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