Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

India’s eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the citizenship bill. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”


US confirms second case of China virus, UK clears 14 tested

Updated 24 January 2020

US confirms second case of China virus, UK clears 14 tested

  • Second case detected in US, 50 other suspected cases under investigation
  • All 14 people who were tested for the coronavirus in the UK had visited Wuhan

WASHINGTON/LONDON: A woman in Chicago in her sixties was Friday confirmed as the second patient on US soil infected with a deadly new virus originating in China, health officials said, with 50 other suspected cases under investigation.
The contagion has so far claimed 26 lives in China, sickened hundreds and has spread across several Asian countries as well as the US.
“I’m pleased to report she is clinically doing well and is in stable condition,” said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health of the new patient.
Nancy Messonier, senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the agency had so far tested 63 samples from patients across 22 US states for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Eleven were found to be negative and two positive, and the CDC was working to make diagnosis kits more nationally available. At present the testing is occurring at the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Chicago patient had traveled to Wuhan in late December before returning to the US on January 13, Arwady said, a few days before health screenings began at major airports for travelers originating from the central Chinese city that is at the center of the outbreak.
She began experiencing symptoms and called her health care providers, and was later admitted to hospital and placed in isolation.
“She has not taken public transportation, have not attended any large gatherings and, she has not had extended close contact with anyone outside her home since returning from China,” added Arwady.
The US confirmed its first case of the infection earlier this week, a man in his thirties from Washington state who had also traveled to Wuhan recently and also reported himself to authorities after developing mild symptoms.
Neither of the cases were detected by the airport screenings that began on January 17, said CDC official Martin Cetron, and both patients had no symptoms or fever when they first arrived in the US.
China has placed a travel ban across a vast region encompassing 13 cities and more than 40 million people, and the US was now “reevaluating” its approach of carrying out airport screenings, added Cetron.
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Meanwhile, everyone tested in Britain for a deadly virus that has infected hundreds in China has been given the all-clear, a top doctor said Friday after an emergency government meeting.
All 14 people who were tested for the coronavirus had visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak which has killed 26 people in China and spread to other parts of Asia and the United States.
Four of the five patients tested in Scotland were Chinese nationals, officials said, without disclosing the nationality of the others.
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said attempts were being made to trace everyone who had arrived in Britain from Wuhan in the past two weeks.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he told the BBC.
Representatives of the ministries of transport, home affairs, foreign affairs, education, health and devolved nations attended a special COBRA meeting on Friday, the government said.
“We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low, but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage,” Whitty said.