İrem UZUN -TDO- A bill that the Indian government on Monday pushed through the lower house of Parliament would grant citizenship to refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. The government argues that those are minorities in Muslim-majority countries and therefore particularly prone to persecution. The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution. However, many Muslim groups also face persecution. Critics say the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalize Muslims.

Opponents of the bill say it is exclusionary and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship. The constitution prohibits religious discrimination against its citizens and guarantees all people's equality before the law and equal protection of the law. Critics say that if it is genuinely aimed at protecting minorities, the bill should have included Muslim religious minorities who have faced persecution in their own countries, such as Ahmadis in Pakistan and Rohingyas in Myanmar. Previously, the government has gone to the Supreme Court seeking deportation of Rohingya refugees from India.

Protesters in India returned to the streets and blocked roads, burnt tyres and painted walls with slogans against the new proposal. Student groups called for dawn-to-dusk shutdown in four districts of the state. Shops, businesses, educational and financial institutions remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads. "We will fight and oppose the bill till the last drop of our blood," students said.

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