Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 13 December 2019

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

  • The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries
  • The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries

NEW DELHI: A divisive citizenship bill has been signed into law in India, a move that comes amid widespread protests in the country’s northeast that could force the cancelation of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. Protesters say the law would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned to host Abe at a meeting in Assam next week as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
Japan’s Jiji Press reported on Friday that Abe is considering canceling his trip. India’s foreign ministry said it was not in a position to comment on the visit which was originally planned for Dec 15-17.
A movement against immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the resources of the tea growing state and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
Critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.
The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries before 2015.
The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India’s constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. No date has yet been set for the hearings.
The party said the law is “prima facie communal” and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.


Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Updated 23 January 2020

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.
He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.
One of his traveling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.
Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.
It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms “given the high volume of international travel.”
Moreover, tourists leaving Bangkok for China said on Thursday they were worried about the spread of the Wuhan virus, ahead of more air and train travel in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holidays.
China has placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on lockdown, as it is considered the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600.
Thailand has so far confirmed four cases of coronavirus, the largest number outside China. Two of the cases were Chinese women who have since been allowed to return home. Chinese tourists make up the largest group of visitors to Thailand.
At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, masked visitors lined up as usual to check in for Southern China Airlines flights back to China.
AirAsia said on Thursday it has canceled direct flights between Wuhan and cities in Thailand and Malaysia until Jan 28.
Matt Thomas, who lives in the Chinese city of Xian, said he was worried about the new Chinese virus, especially because he once contracted swine flu which he described as “awful.”
“I’m a bit worried that it will repeat. I have just got to be safe. In these sorts of situations, you know, take everything seriously, don’t take any risks,” Thomas said.
Chinese health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate, as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year.