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Indian police fire blanks in fresh demos against citizenship bill

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police use batons to disperse students protesting against the government’s so-called Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), in Guwahati, India, on December 11, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Police in India have fired blanks at protesters in the country’s northeast, in a fresh day of demonstrations against a contentious bill that seeks to grant citizenship only to non-Muslim immigrants from certain countries.

Thousands of protesters ignored a curfew in the northeastern Indian state of Assam on Thursday, as several thousand additional troops were deployed in the region to curb protests over the proposed citizenship law.

According to officials, 20 to 30 people have been wounded in the recent protests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed for calm in a series of tweets. However, many would not be able to see Modi’s tweets because his government has suspended mobile internet services in different parts of the region.

The controversial legislation was passed 125-105 by the upper house of the Indian parliament on Wednesday. The lower house had passed it just after midnight on Tuesday. It will be sent to the president to be signed into law, with his approval seen as a formality.

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

Modi’s government says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries.

This is while the Rohingya Muslim minority from Myanmar has faced genocide in that country and is now almost entirely camped in a non-state-recognized status in Bangladesh.

The opponents of the new legislation have threatened to challenge it in the Supreme Court, saying it even violates the principles of equality and secularism enshrined in the Indian constitution itself.

Modi hails from the hard-line Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Many Muslims in India say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens since Modi came to power in 2014. While he has been officially absolved, he is blamed by many for a violent crackdown on the Muslim community in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was the chief minister of the state.

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