Date :Thursday, January 10th, 2019 | Time : 11:01 |ID: 83110 | Print

India’s lower house passes anti-Muslim citizenship bill

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SHAFAQNA India’s lower house of parliament has approved a bill that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims, sparking protests in the country’s northeast.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of the upper house, seeks to grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsis and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated without documents from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“They have no place to go except India,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on Tuesday. “The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country.”

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 bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where nearly four million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectively stripped of their citizenship last year.

Protesters there are angry not because the bill excludes Muslims, but because it would grant citizenship to undocumented Hindus who failed to prove their citizenship and hence were excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published last July.

The final NRC list is due to be published on June 30.

Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said the citizenship bill was “absolutely unconstitutional as it targets specific groups”.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of parliament, he told Al Jazeera, because the chamber is not controlled by the ruling party.

In Tuesday’s protests in Assam, the North East Students’ Organization (NESO) vandalised offices of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and set banners and posters on fire, sbs reported.

“This is going to backfire on the BJP,” he said, pointing to the anger in Assam.

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