ince the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB), scores of Indians have gone on protest and this never-ending saga has turned out to be violent. The Bill was introduced by the Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of the Parliament of India on December 9, in response to the exclusion of 1.9 million people, predominantly Hindus and Muslims in the National Register of Citizens for Assam. It was later passed into a law. This amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 to grant a swifter path to Indian citizenship under the assumption of religious persecution to any individual belonging to the specific minorities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. The Act also seeks to relax the requirement of residence in India for citizenship by naturalisation from 11 years to 5 years for migrants covered under the Act. However, the Act does not mention Muslims and does not offer the same eligibility benefits to Muslim immigrants or immigrants belonging to other religions.
Reviewers have indicated that the amendment Act is unconstitutional. The major opposition political parties state that it violates Constitution’s Article 14, one that guarantees equality to all. They allege that the new law seeks to make Muslims second-class citizens of India while preferentially treating non-Muslims in India. Critics of the Act have stated that due to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Muslims could be made stateless while the Citizenship Amendment Act would be able to shield people with Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian identity as a means of providing them with Indian citizenship even if they failed to prove that they were citizens of India under the stringent requirements of the NRC. Some critics allege that it is a deliberate attempt at disenfranchising and segregating Muslims in line with the ethno nationalist Hindutva ideology of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Wikipedia, states that the Act also does not mention any benefit for various other refugees which form the bulk of the refugees living in India such as Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who faced persecution during the Sri Lankan Civil War, Rohingya refugees who were victims of the Rohingya genocide, Nepali refugees who faced ethnic cleansing in Bhutan and Tibetan Buddhist refugees who faced persecution in China. According to the Intelligence Bureau, the immediate beneficiaries of the new law will be 25,447 Hindus, 5,807 Sikhs, 55 Christians, Buddhists and Parsis. The passage of the Act sparked massive protests in India. Protesters in Assam and other northeastern states oppose the grant of Indian citizenship to any refugee or immigrant regardless of their religion, because they fear it would alter the region’s demographic balance. They have campaigned since the 1970s against all refugees and they fear that the new law will cause a loss of their political rights, culture and land. They are also concerned that it will trigger more migration from Bangladesh as well as violate the Assam Accord which was a prior agreement reached with the central government on migrants and refugees. After the act was passed, protests in the north-eastern region turned violent. Authorities had arrested over 3,000 protesters as of 17 December 2019 and some news outlets have described these protests as riots. Protesters say that the Act violates Clause 5 and Clause 6 of the 1985 Assam Accord.
Stone-throwing between rival groups, burning and vandalism marked unrelenting violence over the citizenship law protests for more than 24 hours in a part of Delhi in which nine including a policeman have been killed and over 100 injured. At least 70 of the injured that have been taken to hospital have gunshot wounds. Shops were burnt and people armed with sticks and rods were seen loitering on streets in Bhajanpura, Chand Bagh and Karawal Nagar in north-east Delhi which saw clashes between protestors for and against the controversial citizenship law spiral into unprecedented violence in the capital. The violence began hours before United States President Donald Trump arrived in the capital. In a video from Jaffrabad area, one young man in red shirt, holding a gun was seen confronting an unarmed Delhi Police officer intimidating him and forcing him to back away with his hands raised before firing repeatedly into the air.
In a chilling video shot on a mobile phone by an eyewitness standing on the roof of a nearby building, a lone officer who seems to be dressed in riot gear was standing in the middle of a main street as the gunman and at least six others approached him. The gunman walks right up to the police officer and shoves him away before firing in the air once more. As he fires, protesters on the other side of the road can be seen scattering in fear. The police officer can be seen raising his hands and slowly walking away, even as other people shout and throw stones at him. Since then, the violence has gone uncontrollable. Tensions remained high in north-east Delhi with shops and vehicles being torched and rioters running amok in several parts especially Maujpur, Brahampuri and other adjoining areas. The death toll in the violence that took a communal colour and spread to the neighbouring areas rose to nine including the police head constable Rattan Lal. Organised groups had attacked each other. Several journalists complained of “running for their lives” while reporting from the ground. Some of them also suffered injuries. Hope the government acts swiftly and controls the riots before too much damage is done to common man.
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