India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.
Photo source: BusinessToday

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has signed into law legislation that grants citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring countries amid protests in north-east India over the contentious move.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which proposes to grant sanctuary to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities fleeing religious persecution in the Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, was cleared by parliament on Wednesday.

The bill was approved by Kovind and the new law comes into effect with its publication in the government gazette late Thursday night, a Home Ministry official said.

The bill triggered protests in India’s north-eastern states of Assam and Tripura, where curfews were imposed across major cities and towns.

Protesters feel the legislation would lead to an influx of illegal immigrants and hurt indigenous communities.

There are already a large number of Bangladeshi immigrants living in the region.

Critics of the bill introduced by Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government have said it goes against values upheld by India’s secular constitution by making religion a basis for citizenship.

Indian opposition parties said the bigger problem with the new law is because it undermines India’s secular constitution by not offering protection to Muslims and have already challenged it in Supreme Court.

Two protesters died in firing by police during clashes in Assam’s main city of Guwahati on Thursday, police said.

Local media also reported a third death in firing, that the police have not yet confirmed that.

There was no overnight violence and some shops opened in Guwahati on Friday.

Some sporadic protests were reported from various areas but the situation had “by and large improved,” police chief Bhaskar Mahanta said.