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Indian MPs Pass Contentious Citizenship Bill Excluding Muslims

NEW DELHI – The lower house of India on Tuesday passed a bill granting citizenship to members of some religious minorities but not to Muslims, causing protests in the north-east of the country, Dawn news reported Wednesday.
The bill covers certain groups – including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs – who have left Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and have been living in India for at least six years.
Muslims are excluded, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a transparent statement to voters as India prepares for elections by May.
The legislation, yet to be approved in the upper house, unleashed a second day of protests on Tuesday in the north-eastern state of Assam, where millions of people have settled in recent decades after fleeing neighboring countries.
Protesters in the state are dissatisfied with the bill, not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing migrants of taking jobs from indigenous groups.
The mountainous state of 33 million people, known for its tea plantations, has suffered for decades from tensions between indigenous tribal and ethnic groups and settlers.
Last year, the Assam government released a draft citizens’ register that left four million people unable to prove that they lived there before 1971, when millions of people fled the country’s war of independence.
A deadline for providing the documents to be included in the register was passed on December 31st and the final list should be published on June 30th.
At Tuesday’s Assam protests, the Northeast Student Advocacy Organization (NESO) ransacked Modi’s Bharatiya Janata (BJP) offices and fired banners and posters.
NESO’s Samujjal Bhattacharyya told AFP that residents of the region would not accept “the political injustice perpetrated by the BJP”.
Police said the protesters threw stones at the police.
“We have identified the cabinetmakers by watching video footage and they will soon be booked,” said a police chief in Assam, Surjeet Singh Panesar.
On Monday, a small party in the Assam-led BJP coalition, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), left the alliance to protest the bill, saying it would result in an influx of Bangladeshi Hindus.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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