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AFP
December 12, 2019

Army deployed as India passes contentious citizenship bill

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AFP
December 12, 2019

GUWAHATI, India: India’s parliament on Wednesday passed a contentious bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from some 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.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others this is part of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims—something he denies.

Besides stoking concern among Muslims, 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 far-flung region, several hundred troops were deployed in Tripura state and in Guwahati, Assam’s biggest city, a senior 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 adjoining 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.

Derek O’Brien, an opposition lawmaker in the upper house, on Wednesday said the legislation bore an “eerie similarity” to Nazi laws against Jews in 1930s Germany.

Many Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Modi stormed to power in 2014.

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