TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Protesters in India’s northern regions clashed with police after a contentious bill, which excludes Muslims from the fast-track citizenship laws, passed the upper house of parliament.
Protests over the controversial bill giving fast track Indian citizenship to non-Muslims have engulfed the state of Assam. The government responded with a redeployment of troops, curfews, and a suspension of internet services, RT reported.
The protests in the northeastern state turned violent on Wednesday night after the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed by the Indian parliament – now one presidential signature short of becoming law. Angry people targeted the homes of high-ranking members of the ruling BJP party, who they accuse of stirring sectarian tensions and discriminating against Muslims.
New Delhi says the CAB is necessary to protect persecuted minorities in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It offers them an easy way to obtain Indian citizenship. But since the bill excludes Muslims from the list of six religious groups that qualify, many Indian Muslims see it as a ploy of the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi against them.
Adding to the anger is the government’s plan to establish a citizenship register. Muslims living in India would then be forced to prove that they are not refugees from the same three countries and potentially be stripped of citizenship if they can’t prove otherwise.
Tensions in Assam have grown rapidly over the week, with protesters switching from burning copies of the loathed piece of legislation to burning tires and cars. After the Wednesday night outburst, which happened in defiance of a curfew, the government in New Delhi sent troops from other parts of India. The troops restored order in the state capital, Guwahati, but protests continued on Thursday in other places.
Prime Minister Modi addressed the disgruntled residents of Assam, saying they have nothing to worry about. “No one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow,” he tweeted. But quite a few commenters have pointed out an obvious flaw – the intended recipients will not be able to read it because of a 24-hour suspension of mobile internet services in some parts of Assam, which was ordered on Wednesday to prevent attempts to “inflame passions” through social media.
The volatile situation also caused a disruption in traffic after several airlines canceled their Thursday and Friday flights to and from cities in Assam, including Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Jorha. Similar cancelations were announced by train services in the state.