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India’s lower house passes citizenship bill that excludes Muslims | India News

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India‘s lower house of parliament has approved a bill that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants, sparking protests that brought the country’s populous northeast to a near standstill.

The legislation, which still needs approval of the upper house, seeks to grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsi and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“They have no place to go except India,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on Tuesday. “The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country.”

Critics have called the proposal, contained in a Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May.

The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where nearly 4 million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectively stripped of their citizenship last year.






WATCH: Indian women defy Hindu temple ban amid protests (2:03)

Protesters there are angry not because the bill excludes Muslims, but because it would grant citizenship to undocumented Hindus, who failed to prove their citizenship and hence were excluded from the draft list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) published last July.

The final NRC list is due to be published on June 30.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of parliament, which is not controlled by the ruling party. However, if it is not passed, the government could pass a decree that would not require legislators’ approval.

Protests in Assam

In Tuesday’s protest, demonstrators set up blockades with burning tires and vandalised two BJP offices, disrupting traffic and business from early in the morning to late afternoon.

They also torched effigies of the prime minister. 

Mukesh Agarwal, Assam police spokesperson, said more than 700 demonstrators were arrested. Police used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Samujjal Bhattacharya, leader of the All Assam Students Union, said the legislation would confer citizenship on the basis of religion, violating India’s secular constitution.

He also said that providing residency and citizenship rights to undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, with which Assam state shares a long border, would threaten indigenous communities.

“Already, we have a whole lot of Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who entered Assam illegally over the years. Now, the government is trying to make a law seeking to confer citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh. We want all illegal migrants to be detected and deported, irrespective of their religion,” Bhattacharya said.

The issue of undocumented immigration from Bangladesh has spurred periodic public uprisings in Assam since the Indian government granted rights to Bangladeshis who entered the country before 1971 – the year Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan.

BJP’s alliance partner in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People’s Party, quit the coalition government on Tuesday to protest the new bill.

“We have always opposed the entry and presence of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” AGP president Atul Bora said.

“We therefore cannot remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government.”

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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