Protests Erupt in India Over Proposed Citizenship Bill
- Protests broke out all over India after the lower house of Parliament passed a bill that would give citizenship to religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
- Muslims are not included on that list, prompting many to worry that the bill would make it easier to jail and deport Muslims residents in India—including those whose families have lived in India for generations.
- Critics say the bill violates India’s secular constitution, which protects all religions, and that it is a targeted attack on Muslims by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party.
Protests in India
Protests erupted in India on Monday as the country’s lower house of Parliament debated and passed a controversial piece of legislation called the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
If implemented, the bill would grant citizenship to religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. In order to become a citizen, those individuals would have to live in India for six years and take a test to prove that they belong to one of six religions.
The religions that would be eligible for citizenship in India are Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, and Parsis. Notably, not included on that list are Muslims.
The bill would represent a huge shift for India, which is a secular country and has a constitution that mandates that all religions be treated equally.
As a result, many have described the bill as the most significant move to change the secular nature of the country since it gained independence in 1947.
The bill would also make it easier to jail and deport Muslims residents in India, including those whose families have lived there for generations, but who do not have proof of citizenship. That could leave millions of Muslims in India stateless.
The bill was first introduced back in 2016 and passed the lower house, but it was dropped by the upper chamber after massive protests against the bill.
Following the re-introduction of the bill, protestors have come out to oppose it, with reports of demonstrations and marches in multiple cities all over India.
In the state of Assam—where people strongly opposed the bill the first time it was proposed—protesters have reportedly blocked roads, burnt tires, and painted walls with slogans against the bill. Shops, businesses, and schools to close as a result.
Opponents of the Bill
The protesters are not alone in their opposition to the citizenship bill.
Opponents and many legal experts say the legislation would violate India’s secular constitution. Opposition parties have also argued that it discriminates against Muslims, which make up nearly 15% of India’s population.
Many Muslims in India say this discrimination is a very intentional plan on the part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to make Muslims second-class citizens in India.
Modi is a staunch Hindu nationalist, meaning that he believes India is and should be a Hindu nation.
Ever since he and the BJP were re-elected earlier this year, he has significantly ramped up his efforts to advance his Hindu-nationalist agenda.
One of the most prominent examples of this is the situation in Kashmir. Back in August, Modi stripped Kashmir of its statehood and autonomy.
The move very significantly gave India’s central government much more power over Kashmir, which had been one of the only Muslim-majority territories in India. Modi also sent tens of thousands of troops to the region, basically putting the territory on total lockdown.
That lockdown has largely remained in place since August, with widespread internet and phone restrictions remain in place to clamp down on protests. Shops, businesses, and schools in Kashmir have largely stayed closed.
Additionally, over the summer, Modi’s government started a program in Assam that was very similar to the one proposed in the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Under that program, all 33 million residents of the state had to provide documents to the government that proved their ancestors were Indian citizens.
The program ultimately resulted in nearly two million people—many of whom Muslims and lifelong residents of India—being left off the state’s citizenship rolls.
As a result, critics say the citizenship bill is just part of Modi’s efforts to identify and deport or even intern Muslims who have lived in India for years or generations.
Critics and opposition leaders have also tried to paint the bill as endangering democracy in India.
“We are heading toward totalitarianism, a fascist state,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim Member of Parliament. “We are making India a theocratic country.”
Supporters of the Bill
Modi and his party have defended the citizenship bill, arguing that it is simply an attempt to protect persecuted religious minorities who migrate from predominantly Muslim countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The bill’s supporters also argue that Muslims are not persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.
While that is true, critics argue that it is a justification that ignores Muslim prosecution in other countries that neighbor India.
“If [the] Indian government, through this bill, wants to give citizenship to persecuted minorities in the neighbouring countries, how can it exclude the Rohingya of Myanmar who are far more persecuted than any other group in the neighbourhood,” Faizan Mustafa, an expert on constitutional law told Al Jazeera.
Now, the legislation will head to Parliament’s upper chamber where, according to reports, Modi seems to have enough allies that most analysts and experts say the citizenship bill will soon become law.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The New York Times) (BBC)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she said to reporters
Sturgeon Steps Down
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on Wednesday.
Sturgeon has been Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and she is also the first woman to ever hold the position. She has been in politics since 1999, leading the charge for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon also guided the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturgeon made sure to mention that her decision was not in response to the latest round of political pressure she is facing after her recent controversies regarding gender reform. Rather, her reasons are rooted in her own personal struggle with whether she can continue to do the job well.
“To be clear, I am not expecting violins here. But I am a human being as well as a politician,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “My point is this – giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But, in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long.
“For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long,” Sturgeon continued. “A First Minister is never off-duty. Particularly in this day and age, there is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted like going for a coffee with friends or going for a walk on your own becomes very difficult.”
Sturgeon’s Political Future
Sturgeon’s approval ratings are reportedly the lowest they’ve been since she’s been in office. Regardless, many political figures in Scotland, as well as the U.K., have applauded her and her historic service as First Minister.
There are still several unknowns moving forward. There is still no confirmation on who will take over the position. However, Sturgeon did say that she will serve until someone else is elected.
The push for Scotland’s independence is hanging in limbo as well, and no one knows what it’ll look like without Sturgeon’s leadership. She did mention, however, that she does not intend to leave politics fully and will still fight for the cause as a lawmaker in Parliament.
Sturgeon said the support for Scottish independence needs to be solidified and grow.
“To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics,” she said. “And my judgment now is that this needs a new leader.”