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A citizenship bill that was passed in the Parliament of India has triggered massive protests in the northeastern states of the country, such as Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 (CAB) which was approved in the Lower House or Lok Sabha on December 2 has now also been passed by the Council of States known as the Rajya Sabha.
Tens of thousands of Assamese residents took to the streets in Guwahati to protest against the passing of the CAB, prompting police to fire tear gas shells, reports The Economic Times. In the wake of the protests, 5,000 paramilitary personnel were airlifted to the northeastern states as the debate took course on December 11. A curfew has been imposed in Guwahati and mobile internet services have been suspended for 24 hours. Trains in the affected areas were either diverted, rescheduled and canceled due to the massive protests. Two army columns have been deployed to Tripura to monitor demonstrations and a third one is on standby in Assam.
The bill has now been passed in a landmark day for India.
What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill?
The bill was proposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an effort to amend India’s Citizenship Act, 1955 and offer citizenship to persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan who had entered India before 2014.
The minorities which are recognized by the bill as persecuted groups include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis.
Why is it so controversial?
The CAB, however, excludes Muslims from the listed countries to be eligible to receive Indian citizenship, deeming it discriminatory against migrants who profess this faith.
Home Affairs minister attempts to put minds at ease
Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah who presented the CAB at the Lok Sabha says that Indian Muslims will indeed remain citizens and will not face any harassment. “Muslims have nothing to fear. Confusion, misinformation is being spread that this bill is specifically against the Muslim community. For the Muslims of this country, there is no question of debate or concern,” said Shah on Wednesday, December 11.
Aside from the barring of Muslims in the fast-track citizenship bill, the tribal-heavy population of the northeastern states such as Assam have expressed fears of a demographic and cultural shift after the bill is passed. This is largely due to a long-held opposition to any outsiders settling in the region. “We will try to address the issues raised by them about the law. We repeat our commitment to preserving the language, culture and social identity rights of northeastern states,” said Shah.