Thousands in India protest citizenship bill excluding Muslims

December 06, 2019

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Indian students and activists shout slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Gauhati, India, Friday, Dec 6. — AP
Indian students and activists shout slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Gauhati, India, Friday, Dec 6. — AP
An artwork is displayed during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill by Indian students and activists in Gauhati, India, Friday. — AP
An artwork is displayed during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill by Indian students and activists in Gauhati, India, Friday. — AP

More than 1,000 students marched on Friday in India's northeast against a bill approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants from India's three Muslim-majority neighbours.

The marchers took to the streets of Gauhati, the Assam state capital, carrying placards opposing the bill that's likely to be introduced in Parliament next week for approval.

A large number of migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan live in the state.

Main opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday the bill was discriminatory as it aimed at excluding Muslim migrants. It will entitle only communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians for India's citizenship.

The proposed bill seeks to relax to six years the existing 11-year requirement that a person must live in India to apply for citizenship.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), re-elected in a landslide in May, has long been accused of following a “Hindutva” agenda favouring officially secular India’s majority Hindus.

The Modi government tried to get similar legislation passed in its first term but failed to garner enough support in the upper house, and it is unclear whether it would succeed there this time.

Critics have called the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) anti-Muslim, and some opposition parties have also pushed back, arguing citizenship cannot be granted on the basis of religion.