Army deployed in India's two North Eastern states as violent public protests broke out over opposition to the Bill
Massive protests erupted in Assam, Tripura and other states on Wednesday as India passed over controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
The civil administration has requisitioned three army columns to quell mass protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Tripura and Assam.
They have also suspended mobile internet services in ten districts of Assam for 24 hours from 7pm Wednesday, reports Hindustan Times.
Furthermore, a curfew was imposed in Guwahati, Assam from 6:15pm till 7am Thursday, which was later extended for an indefinite period, reports Press Trust of India.
The army in Tripura said two columns have been deployed in the hilly state -- in Kanchanpur and Manu general areas while a third column has been kept on standby for deployment at Bongaigaon in Assam.
The approximate strength of one column is about 70 personnel.
Earlier, Protesters took to the streets in various parts of India from December 9 as the Indian government offered the controversial bill in parliament that would give citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Slew protests were seen from different parts of the country including Delhi, Assam, Tripura, and other north-eastern states.
People in the northeast fear that a large number of Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who they say are intruders, will swamp their homeland. As a result, the protesters clashed with police, set fire to tyres and cut down trees to block roads, reports Hindustan Times.
Besides, major opposition parties from the northeast region, including Indian National Congress (INC), Nationalist Congress Party, and Trinamool Congress voted against the bill in the lower house, reports ABP News.
Two prominent student bodies - the North East Students Organization (NESO) and All Assam Students Union (AASU) – have been at the forefront of the agitation against the bill.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 which prohibited illegal immigrants from becoming Indian citizens. In the new bill, citizenship will be granted on the basis of religion.
As per the new draft law, members of six religious minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian – if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh, will be eligible for citizenship.
They will only have to live or work in India for six years.
Furthermore, people holding Indian Overseas Citizen (OCI) cards, an immigration status that allows an Indian foreign citizen to live and work indefinitely in India, may lose their status if they violate local laws for major and minor offenses and violations, reports BBC.
Thousand detained in Guwahati
Violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill continues in Guwahati, Assam.
As many as 1,000 agitators have been detained from Guwahati as several clashes happen between the protestors and the police, reports India Today.
Several protesters, police personnel were injured during the clash and numerous vehicles including a fire service vehicle car have been damaged after protesters pelted stones targeting the security employees.
Several thousands of people, including students came out on the streets and moved towards Dispur, capital of Assam, to impose a blockade in front of Assam Secretariat (Janata Bhawan).
India's record on internet shutdown gets bleaker
The internet shutdown on Tuesday in Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura amid spiralling protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Northeast is the latest in a series of such shutdowns across India, which topped the list of countries that resorted to such measures in 2018.
India reported over 100 internet shutdown in 2018, according to an annual study of Freedom House, a US-based non-profit research organization. The study on the internet and digital media freedom was conducted in over 65 countries, which cover 87% of the world's internet users.
Police and administrative authorities have cited protests and other security reasons to routinely snap the internet in India.
The Centre promulgated the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017, under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, in August 2017 for legal sanction to the shutdowns.
As per the rules, Union home ministry secretary or secretaries of state home departments can order temporary suspension of the internet. An internet suspension order has to be taken up for review within five days.
Prior to 2017, authorities could shut down the internet under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which empowers an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of over four people.
Point-by-point rebuttal of Opposition charges by Amit Shah
Home Minister Amit Shah waited for six hours - the time allotted by Rajya Sabha Chairman for the debate on citizenship bill - to reply to the Opposition charges. When his turn came, he listed the questions put forward by the Opposition on the bill and started answering them.
1. On objection to his statement that Partition happened on religious lines: I would like to quote from the April 8, 1950 Nehru-Liaquat agreement (known as Delhi declaration), which said the religious minorities will be given equal rights in both the countries (India and Pakistan) to be part of the government and practice their own religions. These are the claims made by the Prime Ministers of both the countries to their respective religious minorities.
2. On a question that why only three neighbouring countries have been chosen: This is not happening for the first time in India. India has given citizenship to people coming from other countries, like Sri Lanka, Uganda etc. Can I ask why Bangladeshis or Pakistanis were left out? The laws at that time addressed the situations in these countries, the law we are planning to bring is focussed on these countries. I know the law in Pakistan. There are many restrictions. India has followed the principles enunciated in the Nehru-Liaquat pact - we have seen people from minority communities at high positions like the CJI, CEC, even Presidents an Vice-President. But has this happened in Pakistan or any of the three neighbouring countries? Hence, this law is needed.
3. On the comment that government does not have any record on details of minorities in the country: If there is no law, everyone will say he/she is the citizen of the country. That is why we are proposing to bring this law.
4. On a comment that this move is to deflect attention of the country from other issues: We don't have to do this. We brought this bill in 2015, it went to joint committee but wasn't passed by the Rajya Sabha. There was no need to deflect attention in 2015, we fight and win elections on our own strength and popularity.
5. On a question as to why aren't Muslims included in the purview of the bill: I am surprised that we included people from six religions, but there is no appreciation. All they (Opposition) care about it why aren't Muslims included? The reason why we haven't included Muslims is that they are not in minority in the three countries we have focussed on - Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The citizenship bill talks about persecution of religious minorities. But our law also has a provision that those people can also apply for Indian citizenship. We have given citizenship to more than 566 Muslims from these countries who feel persecuted.
6. On charges that the citizenship bill violates Article 14 of the Constitution: Article 14 doesn't stop Parliament from making laws which are based on reasonable classification. And reasonable classification is there in this case. We are not taking into consideration one religion from these countries, but all the minorities. It's a class, which is being persecuted in those countries.