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18 Dec 2019 | 03:35 AM UTC

India: Chief Minister to lead anti-CAB march in West Bengal December 18 /update 11

India News Alert

West Bengal Chief Minister to march against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) on December 18; further protests, clashes expected over the near term

TIMEFRAME expected from 12/18/2019, 12:00 AM until 12/20/2019, 11:59 PM (Asia/Kolkata). COUNTRY/REGION India

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Event

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal plans to lead a march in Kolkata on Wednesday, December 18, to protest the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). She plans to march from Howrah Maidan to Dharamtalla (Howrah district), however, she did not immediately announce a start time. Several thousand people rallied in the city on Monday, December 16; the march on Wednesday is also expected to be well attended as the Supreme Court is due to hear several pleas to revoke the CAB. 

While the curfew has been lifted in Guwahati (Assam) as of Tuesday, December 18, schools are to remain closed until Sunday, December 22. The curfew in Dibrugarh (Assam) was relaxed from 06:00 to 20:00 (local time). The Assamese chief minister also confirmed that authorities had restored broadband internet services to the whole state as of Tuesday morning. 

The Rashtriya Janata Dal political party has also called for a nationwide general strike on Saturday, December 21. 

While normal train and flight operations have largely resumed as of Tuesday, further transportation disruptions are possible - particularly in protest-affected areas - at short notice in the coming days. A heightened security presence and localized telecommunication and business disruptions are also to be expected nationwide over the coming hours and days. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.

Context

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslim minorities fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Opponents claim that the legislation is in violation of the constitution, which prohibits religious discrimination against citizens. In conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), activists also claim that it specifically seeks to target Indian Muslims. The NRC aims to identify illegal immigrants by requiring individuals to prove their citizenship based on specific documentation prior to a certain cut-off date, including land and tenancy records. The NRC has so far only been implemented in Assam, where more than 1.9 million people failed to qualify as of August and were subsequently put in detention centers. However, on November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah said that the NRC will be implemented nationwide. While the NRC will expose all illegal immigrants, opponents of the CAB argue that the bill isolates Muslim Indians as it favors all non-Muslim religious minorities who may fail to qualify for the NRC but will nonetheless be assured citizenship. The CAB has also received opposition - in particular in several northeastern states - due to fears that it will encourage an influx of immigrants that will affect the ethnic balance. 

The Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) passed the CAB legislation on December 9, while the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) passed the bill on December 11. Nationwide protests opposing the CAB began on December 10; security forces have killed at least six protesters as of December 15. 

Advice

Individuals in India are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations, prepare for transportation, business, and communications disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.

 

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