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Bangladesh alarmed at India's Citizenship Amendment Act & National Register of Citizens

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Sunday that the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are India's "internal issues", but any uncertainty in Indian was likely to affect its neighboring countries.

Momen cancelled his visit to India earlier this month after protests against the citizenship law erupted in India.

His concern over the Citizenship Amendment Act came in the background of Indian Home Minister Amit Shah's remarks, during a debate on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill at the Lok Sobha on December 9, that Hindus, a religious minority in Bangladesh, had "found it impossible" to undertake their religious activities in the country.

Hinduism is the second largest religion in Bangladesh, with around 14 million people identifying themselves as Hindus. Hindus make up about 8.5% of the total population. Bangladesh has the third-largest Hindu community of the world, after India and Nepal.

Similarly the extreme rightist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that Hindus are being persecuted in Pakistan, which has around 8 million Hindus population, comprising 4% of Pakistani population according to the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Speaking at Agenda AajTak 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah said last week: "The population of Hindus has reduced in Pakistan because they are being persecuted there."

The Citizenship Act grants citizenship to "persecuted" Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, provided they have resided in India for six years.

The legislation aims to fast-track citizenship for Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan. For the immigrant religious minorities, the law effectively amends India's Citizenship Act, 1955, which required an applicant to have resided in India for 11 years.

The upheaval in most of the country is due to the exclusion of Muslims from the list. Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar, for instance, will not be given citizenship under the new law. Likewise, for Sri Lankan Tamils.

Citizens are also concerned about the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC), which requires people to produce documents of ancestry to be enlisted as Indian citizens. This exercise was undertaken by Narendra Modi's government in Assam between February 2015 and August this year, excluded nearly 1.9 million residents of Assam.

Given the exclusionary privileges, those protesting believe that the new law will only be used to polarise Indian communities, especially Hindus, against Muslims. On Dec. 11, just before the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was cleared, over 700 activists, academicians, and filmmakers wrote a letter to the Indian government expressing grave concern over these two proposed laws. "For the first time there is a statutory attempt to not just privilege peoples from some faiths but at the same time relegate another, Muslims, to second-rate status," they wrote.

The new law, they wrote, also went against the tenets of the Indian constitution. "The CAB is at odds with Constitutional secular principles and a violation of Articles 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21 which guarantee the right to equality, equality before the law and non discriminatory treatment by the Indian state," they wrote.

Over 200 Christian Leaders Condemn CAA

Over 200 top Christian leaders from across the country on Saturday condemned the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), and the state violence unleashed on youth and civil society activists protesting against the discriminatory legislation. They expressed solidarity with the students and others who have been grievously injured and prayed for their speedy recovery.

In a joint statement, they condemned the "brutal repression" by the police and para-military forces on peaceful democratic protests by youth and students of various cities and Universities in India, especially Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University.

The signatories of the statement include George Pattery, head of the Jesuits in India, eminent philosopher TK John, human-rights activist John Dayal, Evangelical Fellowship of India general secretary Rev Vijayesh Lal, academicians Michael Williams, Annie Koshi, Sunny Jacob, Denzil Fernandez, former member of Delhi Minorities Commission AC Michael, theologians John Chathanatt, CB Samuel, Rajah Chellamani and lawyers Jose Chiramel, PI Jose and Pramod Singh.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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