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Bill granting citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants draws protests in India

By Ed Adamczyk
Bill granting citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants draws protests in India
Protesters burned tires in the streets of Guwahati, India, on Wednesday as India's upper house of legislators passed a bill granting citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants. Photo courtesy of EPA-EFE/STR

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- India's parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday amid opposition, including claims that it marginalizes Muslims.

It grants Indian citizenship status to all non-Muslim illegal immigrants from neighboring Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party calls it a bill offering sanctuary to those fleeing religious persecution. Opponents say it violates India's secular principles, discriminates against Muslim rights and strengthens the power of the BJP, noting that persecuted minorities from countries other than the three specifically mentioned in the bills text are not included.

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It passed in the Rajya Sagha by a vote of 125 to 99. The bill passed in the lower house, the Lok Sabha, two days ago and now awaits the approval of the prime minister to become law. Opposition leaders have promised to test the law's legality in the Supreme Court.

The legislation sparked violent protests in communities near the Bangladesh border by residents fearing they will be overrun by non-Muslim migrants. Roads were blocked, the army was mobilized in the state of Tripura and a curfew was enforced in the state capital of Argatala. Police fought protesters in the Assam state capital of Guwahati.

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