Protests Erupt Across India Amidst Simmering Discontent Against Citizenship Bill

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Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Protests erupted in several cities and towns across India on Monday after Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the controversial Citizenship Amendment bill in the lower house of Indian parliament smoothing the way for migrants-except Muslims from neighboring countries.

Protesters, in thousands, poured in the streets in different towns of Assam including Guwahati, Tezpur, Dibrugarh,, the restive state in the north east where the state recently published a controversial citizenship list excluding nearly two million residents, most of whom belong to Bengali ethnicity.

The main student organization in the region issues an 11-hour strike after the bill was cleared in the lower house. Late in the evening protesters hit the streets, carrying flame torches and placards in their hands, demanding revocation of the controversial bill.

The authorities deployed an increased number of forces personnel in the towns across the northeastern region to quell the surge of protests.

The natives of the region say that the bill will pave way for the intruders to come in and take their resources. In the state of Manipur, one organization that was spearheading the campaign called off protests after the Home minister announced that the bill has provisions to give protection of the natives.

However, discontent is simmering among Muslims across the country against the present government for its ‘discriminatory’ policies. Several Muslim dominant organizations have conducted gatherings and issues statements asking the government to roll back the bill.

One of the most prominent Muslim politicians of the country Assadudin Owaisi, said the bill is in violation of the fundamental structure of the constitution, which is secular in character. He tore apart the bill toward the end of his speech.

After the bill was passed, Owaisi said, in a tweet, that the bill betrays the ideas of equality and liberty.

Secular ad liberal voices from among non-Muslims, both individual and organizations, have criticized the government over the bill and lent their support to the Muslims.

Scores of faculty members of Indian Institute of Management issued a statement in protest saying that the bill goes against the fundamental founding principle of our republic – equality before law without regard to religious beliefs.

They warned that the bill can trigger communal discontent across the country “even while it is highly unlikely to benefit even the intended beneficiaries.”

Harsh Mander, a Delhi based human rights activists, announced on Twitter that he will declare himself as Muslim, as an act of disobedience, if the bill becomes law. His tweet has been widely praised and hailed as a guiding way for others to follow.

One twitter user Anjali Sharma, who identifies herself as centrist wrote a passionate tweet pleading apology to Muslims of India.

In Kerala, a group of activists passed a resolution against the bill and the citizenship test exercise. The resolution event was attended by many students and rights activists including Teesta Stalvad.

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