Citizenship Bill excludes Muslims in India

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The Lok Sabha yesterday passed a legislation that will grant citizenship to members of certain religious minorities but not Muslims, sparking protests in the country's northeast.

Demonstrators in the state are angry about the bill not because it excludes Muslims but because it grants citizenship to settlers from elsewhere, accusing the migrants of taking away jobs from indigenous groups.

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill amid a walkout by several Opposition parties, including the Congress and Trinamool Congress.

Critics have called the bill, to be discussed in parliament on Tuesday, an attempt by Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a national election due by May.

The BJP has 61 members and the party has support from 12 MLAs of the Bodoland People's Front and the sole Independent member.

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"We have extended support to the ongoing bandh today, so made a decision to postpone the formalities to resign for tomorrow", Bora said.

Activists of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) burn a dummy copy of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Bill aims to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship of India. Mizoram and Meghalaya governments have also opposed the bill by adopting a resolution against it in their respective cabinet meetings.

That could hurt the BJP's goal of sharply increasing its parliamentary seats from the northeast region of the country in the national election.

He further said the party will now go to the people and work at the grassroot level and "we appeal to those with whom we had worked for years in the AASU (All Assam Students Union) to protect the interest of the indigenous population (and) to come and join us".

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Later, Bora told a television channel, "We felt betrayed at the BJP's attitude towards the bill as when we entered into the alliance, we were convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi was committed to resolve the issue of illegal migrants.We never dreamt that the BJP could do this to the people of Assam".

According to a PTI report from Agartala, at least seven persons were injured, some with gunshot wounds, on Tuesday in West Tripura district, about 15 km from the state capital, when police and paramilitary jawans resorted to lathicharge and opened fire in the air to disperse Citizenship Bill protesters.

Bora, along with Kesab Mahanta, the AGP working president, and Phani Bhusan Choudhury of the party are ministers in the BJP-led government in Assam. While the AGP broke off the alliance, allies Shiv Sena and JD (U) opposed the legislation. As the government did not heed to the demand, the Congress staged a walkout.

A new registry of citizens compiled in Assam this year forced the state's 33 million people to submit documents proving they were there before 1971, when millions fled Bangladesh's independence war.

However, state Congress president Ripun Bora accused the AGP of carrying on with the alliance for the "sake of power" and noted that the damage to the state had already been done.

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