India adopts Citizenship law amidst huge protests | Daily News


India adopts Citizenship law amidst huge protests

Security personnel use batons to disperse students protesting against the government's Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), in Guwahati, India on Wednesday.
Security personnel use batons to disperse students protesting against the government's Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), in Guwahati, India on Wednesday.

Both houses of India’s parliament have passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill giving Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighbouring countries -Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are not Muslims, amidst much protests in many parts of the country. The passage of the new law displays the strength of the Narendra Modi led government of the Bharatiya Janatha Party and raises new issues of Human Rights in India.

The army has been called into north-eastern India, after thousands of people defied curfews to protest against the new citizenship bill, which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries. The main criticism of the new law is that it discriminates against Muslima, but in north-east India, the protesters claim they will be overrun by Hindus from Bangladesh.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed for calm. Officials said 20-30 people were injured in the demonstrations, and air and railway services have been severely impacted, in the region.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was passed by the Rajya Sabha – Upper House on Wednesday, with 125 votes in favour and 105 against. The ruling Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. The day before, it was passed in the Lok Sabha – Lower House – with 311 voting for and 80 against. The BJP has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha.

The controversial CAB would fast-track citizenship for religious minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Opposition parties say the proposed law is unconstitutional as it bases citizenship on a person's religion and would further marginalize India’s 200-million strong Muslim minority.

The government, ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP, said the bill seeks to protect religious minorities who fled persecution in their home countries.

Prime Minister Modi celebrated the the bill’s passing on Twitter: “A landmark day for India and our nation's ethos of compassion and brotherhood!” he wrote. “This bill will alleviate the suffering of many who faced persecution for years.”

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in India this week as the debate on the Bill was taken up at the Lok Sabha on Monday. Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Bill amid raucous debate. Opposition parties stood against it stating that for the first time this would create a legal pathway to grant Indian nationality based on religion.

Opposition politicians inside parliament, and protesters in several Indian cities, said the bill discriminated against Muslims and violated India’s secular constitution. The ruling BJP had included the CAB as part of its manifesto in the last general election, where it obtained a big majority in the Lok Sabha.

Before tabling the Bill, Home Minister Shah said; “In these three countries, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians, followers of these six religions have been tormented.”

The biggest protests were in Assam, - one of India’s remote north-eastern states that had previously opposed the bill. They blocked roads, burnt tires and painted walls with slogans against the new proposal.

Student groups called for dawn-to-dusk shutdown in four districts of the state. Shops, businesses, educational and financial institutions remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads.

“We will fight and oppose the bill till the last drop of our blood,” All Assam Students’ Union said underlining the region’s resistance against migrants amid fears that tens of thousands of settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh would gain citizenship.

In Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat and the eastern city of Kolkata in West Bengal, hundreds of people staged protests and marched against the proposed law.

A group of more than 1,000 Indian scientists and scholars also called for the immediate withdrawal of the bill. “We fear, in particular, that the careful exclusion of Muslims from the ambit of the bill will greatly strain the pluralistic fabric of the country,” the statement said.

The Congress Party and most opposition parties in New Delhi and the Indian states are strongly opposed to this new law as they see it as opposed to the equality on religion in the Indian Constitution.

Many indigenous groups in India fear that giving citizenship to large numbers of immigrants, who came over the porous border with Bangladesh following independence in 1971, would change the unique ethnic make-up of the region and their way of life, regardless of religion.

Critics of the bill say it is another example of how PM Modi and the BJP party have pushed an agenda of Hindu nationalism onto secular India, a country of 1.3 billion people, at the expense of the Muslim population.

The BJP, which was re-elected in May, has its roots in India's Hindu right-wing movement, many followers of which see India as a Hindu nation.

The government maintains the bill is about protecting religious minorities who fled to India to avoid persecution by allowing them to become citizens.

Its critics say India's claims that the citizenship law’s aims to protect religious minorities “rings hollow” because it excludes Muslim minorities who face persecution in neighbouring countries, including the Ahmadiyya from Pakistan, Rohingya from Myanmar, and the Tamil from Sri Lanka.

“The bill uses the language of refuge and sanctuary but discriminates on religious grounds in violation of international law,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Trump Impeachment

The biggest political and legislative threat to US President Donald Trump takes place in the current weeks with the United States House Judiciary Committee taking the first steps this week toward voting on articles of impeachment based on charges against him on the abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Opening the special session, the committee chair, Jerrold Nadler, called Trump’s obstruction of Congress “complete, absolute and without precedent”. He said the impeachment debate should be framed around three questions: “First, does the evidence show clearly that the president committed these acts? “Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanours? “Third, what are the consequences for our national security, for the integrity of our elections, and for our country if we fail to act?”

While Democrat members framed the impeachment articles as a solemn responsibility, Republicans sought to paint the inquiry as a political ploy.

The top Republican on the committee, Doug Collins, said the articles were baseless and “nothing new”. Jim Sensenbrenner called it “the weakest case in history”.

Running to nine pages, the impeachment resolution describes how Trump allegedly used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to tamper in the 2020 US election, at the expense of US national security and elections integrity.

“In the history of the republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’,” the resolution states.

Saying that Trump had “ignored and injured the interests of the nation”, the resolution declares that Trump “thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States.”

At a campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania Tuesday night, Trump said impeachment was “stupid” and falsely claimed that “our poll numbers have gone through the roof” owing to the impeachment process. Polling averages show Trump’s approval basically static at about minus 12 points.

This impeachment move is the biggest political challenge to President and the Republicans who remain supportive of him, as the next US presidential election campaign, begins early next year. Donald Trump remains the main Republican candidate, while the opposition Democrats are still to bring down its list of possible candidates to even three.

Israel elections

Israel is heading for an unprecedented third election within a year – in a political stalemate that has paralysed the government. Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief challenger, Benny Gantz, have failed to agree on power sharing agreements and to firm after the election in September this year. Both have failed during their officially mandated time to form a governing coalition on their own.

The Israeli legislature has now voted for a dissolution of parliament, which will lead to another election in March next year. Given Israel’s divided state, and the deep mistrust between the opposing camps, there is no guarantee that another vote will break the loop of elections and instability that has rocked the country for the past year.

This will be the third general election held within one year. It gives another opportunity for Mr. Netanyahu to gain office, amidst the corruption charges being moved against him.

Ukraine - Russia

In the first face-to-face talks between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine tentative agreements were made on prisoner exchanges and a total ceasefire, but no political breakthrough to the five-year old conflict in south-east Ukraine.

The talks between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine, were arranged by French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel. Zelenskiy made ending the war with Russia one of his recent campaign promises before election.

There was little expectation of progress towards ending the conflict, involving Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia’s military, which has left more than 13,000 dead and millions displaced.

Putin believes Moscow is negotiating from a position of strength and has shown little inclination to reduce pressure on Ukraine.

“I don’t know who [beat] whom. I think it would be appropriate to be diplomatic as we’ve just started talking. Let’s say for now it’s a draw,” Zelenskiy said outside the Élysée Palace in Paris where they met for talks with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a joint communique issued after the talks, the sides promised “immediate measures to stabilise the situation in the conflict area”, which will also include efforts to clear mines, an expanded monitoring mission under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, access for the Red Cross to visit all prisoners and further troop withdrawals. The sides also pledged to meet in four months in Berlin.

Greta Thunberg - Climate Summit

At this week’s UN Climate Summit at Madrid, Spain, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg accused rich countries of misleading people over climate action.

Ms. Thunberg (16) who has been awarded the Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year Award, said the UN climate forum tasked with saving the world from runaway global warming has become an “opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition” to act on climate, addressing delegates and observers to vigorous applause. “Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action,” she added.

Dozens of teenagers and indigenous rights activists were thrown out of UN climate summit, after staging a protest to demand nations commit to act now to avert catastrophic climate change. Hundreds of youth came to the summit chanting “climate justice now” and “shame”.

Youngest PM

At only 34 years of age, Sanna Marin, Finland’s new Prime Minister, is the youngest head of government in the world. As well as her youth, her gender also makes her something of a rarity, at least by international standards. She is one of only five women among the European Union’s 28 current leaders. What is more, Ms Marin leads a left-wing coalition whose five parties are all led by women, three of whom are under 35. Her Cabinet will contain 12 women and seven men: at 63%, the female share is the highest in the European Union.

Sri Lanka has the record of having the world’s first woman prime minister with Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike elected in 1960 and serving three terms as prime minister.

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