Defying protesters, India passes anti-Muslim citizenship bill


India’s Parliament Wednesday passed a contentious citizenship bill which discriminates against Muslims as part of the Hindu-nationalist government’s agenda, amid violent protests against the move. The bill will let New Delhi grant citizenship to illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighboring countries before 2015, but not if they are Muslim. The legislation was passed 125-105 by the upper house, after the lower house voted in support of it on Monday. It will be sent to the president to be signed into law, with his approval seen as a formality.

Troops were deployed to the state of Tripura and Assam, a senior army official said, as police battled protesters railing against the bill. Tripura suspended mobile internet services to stop the spread of misinformation on social media, according to authorities there. At least 25 protesters have been injured, news channel NDTV reported.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) proposes a plan to make it easier to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities who left the Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to escape religious persecution, while discriminating against the Muslim community. Critics of the bill have said it goes against values upheld by the country’s constitution by making religion a basis for citizenship. Some Muslim opposition politicians have argued that the bill is targeted against the community, accusing the government of PM Narendra Modi for trying to render them “stateless.” In September, the U.N. called on India to not render anyone stateless after the country’s handling of citizenship took a toll in the northeastern state of Assam.

The Muslim community in Assam has been subjected to multiple human rights violations as they are considered foreigners by the Assamese community. Citizenship and illegal migration are volatile issues in tea-growing and oil-rich Assam, home to more than 32 million people, about one-third of whom are Muslims. In the Nellie massacre in 1983, around 2,000 Muslims were killed in a violent protest by a native Assamese group. Hundreds of thousands of people fled to India from Muslim-majority Bangladesh after it declared independence from Pakistan in 1971, setting off a nine-month civil war. Most of them settled in Assam and the neighboring state of West Bengal, where there are similar demands to send back illegal Muslim immigrants.