Army deployed, protests flare as Indian citizenship bill passes

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The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015

Hundreds of troops were deployed in the northeast which has been hit by violent protests as India’s parliament on Wednesday passed a contentious bill that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from some countries, reports AFP.

The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 – but not if they are Muslim.

The move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faced stiff resistance from opposition parties, minority groups and student bodies, with some calling it discriminatory against Muslims.

As the upper chamber debated the bill, demonstrations against it turned violent in the country’s ethnically diverse northeast, reports Reuters.

Soldiers were deployed in Tripura state and reinforcements put on standby in neighbouring Assam, both of which border Bangladesh.

A curfew has been imposed in Assam’s main city of Guwahati after police clashed with thousands of protesters, beating them back using water cannons and tear gas.

State authorities in Assam also blocked mobile internet services in 10 districts, fearing further violence.

Protesters, many of them students, remained on the streets late into last evening, where bonfires were lit, public property vandalized and vehicles set on fire.

“The bill will take away our rights, language and culture with millions of Bangladeshis getting citizenship,” said Gitimoni Dutta, a college student at the protest.

Some opposition Muslim politicians have also argued that the bill targets their community, which numbers more than 170 million people and is by far India’s largest minority group.