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Citizenship Bill: A Sucker Punch to Minority

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Lok Sabha has approved a bill that would grant residency and citizenship rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsis and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated without documents from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The legislation, which still needs the approval of the upper house, has sparked a spate of protests in most of North-eastern states of India where nearly forty lakhs people, stigmatised of being foreigners, were effectively stripped of their citizenship last year..

Home Minister Rajnath Singh in his reply told the Parliament “They can’t go any other place except India and the beneficiaries of the bill are free to reside in any part of the country.” BJP has deliberately brought the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, whose single objective is to create a wedge between communities. This Bill is out and out anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Modi to boost his Hindu vote base ahead of the General election due by May this year.

Currently, in Assam the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated which is first time since 1951 – as part of a government campaign to identify undocumented immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. As many as 29 lakh women, most of whom are Muslims and nearly 45 lakh others are part of about 13 million people who were omitted from the first draft which NRC released last year on December 31st. The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, Protesters there are angry not because the bill excludes Muslims, but because it would grant citizenship to unauthorised Hindus who failed to prove their citizenship and hence were excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published last July. The final NRC list will be published on June 30.

The authenticity of documents submitted by more than 7 million people, including 2.9 million married women, is now being verified by authorities to decide whether they are Indian citizens or immigrants. Initially, there were 19 million people declared as legal citizens out of the total population of 32 million. The Supreme Court of India has fixed June 30 as the deadline to verify the documents but according to the human rights activists officials are busy creating unnecessary hurdles in the verification process.

According to Rejaul Karim Sarkar, President of All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU), even women who used the Panchayat certificates are subjected to harassment.

He also added “It may be mandatory for the communities to fill up the form for the NRC updation, the verification process for Muslims and Bengali Hindus have been particularly made very difficult”. However, the state’s indigenous communities are exempted from such cumbersome documentation process.

There is large apprehension among Muslim population of Assam that their names might be dropped from the NRC list, which is slated to be published next month. Meanwhile, NRC is not likely to decide on the fate of more than 300,000 people and their family members who have either been declared foreigners or have cases pending against them in the Foreigners Tribunal or the special courts. As per government record a total of 245,057 cases are pending in FTs, while 90,206 people have been declared foreigners.

There was an amendment to the Citizenship Act in 2003 which said that the criteria for a person born in India to become a citizen, it is compulsory to have both his parents to be the legal Indian citizens. However, activists fear that more than ten thousand people who do not find their names in the NRC list might be put in the detention centres and ultimately may become stateless- similar to what happened to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The Human Rights Group active in the state have already declared the citizenship bill as unconstitutional since it targets specific groups. The ruling BJP is aware that the bill in all likelihood would be turned down by the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, where BJP doesn’t enjoy the majority.

Almost every north eastern state has sizeable Muslim migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh who entered Assam illegally over the years. It is unfortunate that now the BJP government is trying to frame a law seeking to confer citizenship to Hindus from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The situation calls for the detection and subsequent deportation of all illegal migrants, irrespective of their religion.

BJP is trying to emulate the Israeli model of resettling the Jews in the predominantly Palestinian occupied territory after the six day war in 1967. Following the 1967 war, Israel continues to expand its remaining settlements as well as settling new areas, despite pressure from the international community to desist. The Citizenship Bill will have far-reaching effect as far as the northeastern region is concerned. It will make it another hot spot like Kashmir which the nation can least afford.

The Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People’s Party, which is BJP’s ally in Assam, quit the coalition government on Tuesday in protest against the new bill. The AGP President Atul Bora later said “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 and we, therefore, cannot remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the BJP government.” In the coming weeks, we are likely to encounter lot of protests from those who have been residing in the state for decades and suddenly find themselves in a no man land.

Considering the opposition by Congress and other like minded parties in the Parliament, it won’t be easy for the BJP to get the Bill cleared. Till then, we hope that sanity prevails among the ranks of ruling coalition of NDA which may make them to drop this contentious and highly discriminatory Bill.

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Madhya Pradesh farmers hopeful of being ‘debt-free’ as loan waiver scheme kicks-off

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Bhopal, Jan 22 : A week after the launch of the loan waiver scheme in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government claims 19.54 lakh farmers have filed their applications in the six days till Sunday.

While the opposition BJP has been calling the “Jai Kisan Rin Mukti Yojana” a trick to cheat the farmers, the question is how the farmers of the state perceive the entire exercise.

Kailash Chaudhary, a farmer from Mandsaur district’s Babulda village, said: “About two years ago, six farmers sacrificed their lives for their rights in Pipliya Mandi. This is the beginning of the victory of their fight.”

“Forms are being filled for waiver of loans up to Rs 2 lakh. We feel that the government is taking our demands seriously,” Chaudhary told IANS.

Mandsaur was the centre of farmers’ agitation in 2017 when six farmers were killed in police firing in June, 2017. After the incident, the farmers’ movement had taken over the whole state, which then spread to the whole nation.

Farmer’s leader Kedar Sirohi said: “Farmers in different parts of the state are excited about the loan waiver. They are filing applications in large numbers.”

“To ensure they don’t face any difficulty in filing applications, leaders and workers of farmer organisations are helping them. Government officials is also alert to help out the farmers. Colour coding of application forms has made it easier for farmers to fill out the applications,” he said.

According to official figures, out of the 19.54 lakh forms filed till Sunday, around 60 per cent were green forms, 35 per cent were white forms and 5 percent were pink forms. The farmers are hopeful of becoming debt-free through this exercise.

As per the scheme, the farmers of the Aadhaar seeded list will have to submit green applications and the farmers of non-Aadhar seeded list will have to submit white coloured applications. Farmers have to submit a pink application to file an objection or claim against information provided in the green or white list.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been accusing the Congress of misleading the farmers and terming the scheme a trick to cheat them.

Former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan said the Congress promise of a loan waiver won’t be fulfilled by a mere announcement.

“The Chief Minister (Kamal Nath) and Congress leaders are saying they have fulfilled their promise of loan waiver to the farmers. But the promise has not yet been fulfilled. An announcement does not mean fulfillment of the promise,” he said, adding the Congress was misleading the farmers.

Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer responded that 55 lakh farmers will get their loans waived of under the scheme, for which the due process needs to be followed.

“No matter what charges the BJP makes, the truth is that farmers are happy and they trust that the Congress is fulfilling the promise that they made to them,” he said.

“Those farmers who are in debt, neither are they now receiving notices from the banks nor is their property being seized. Under BJP rule, farmers had to go to jail and lose their property just for not paying their power bills,” Jaffer told IANS.

Calling the scheme pro-farmer, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS that political parties were creating doubts about the scheme.

“Farmers were reeling under debt which had increased manifold over the last one-and-a-half decade. Now they are getting waiver of up to Rs 2 lakh. The government is new and one should wait before making adverse comments,” he said.

Kamal Nath had signed the farm loan waiver file soon after taking oath as the Chief Minister. The filing of forms for the waiver started from January 15 and will continue till February 5.

According to the government, farmers will start getting the money in their loan accounts from February 22.

The Chief Minister had said that the scheme would benefit around 55 lakh farmers by waiving their loans worth Rs 50,000 crore.

(Sundeep Pouranik can be contacted at [email protected])

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Entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia: Pahlaj Nihalani

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

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Pahlaj Nihalani

Mumbai, Jan 22 :Govinda, “Rangeela Raja”, Pahlaj Nihalani-backed comeback vehicle for Govinda, did not open well. Nihalani says it is because his film did not get the theatres required as the entertainment industry is run by a “glamorous mafia”.

“I am being targeted for my blunt views on the workings of censor board, and because of me, my leading man Govinda is being targeted. If you ask me, Govinda and I have the maximum number of enemies in the film industry,” Nihalani said.

Lamenting the lack of theatres for “Rangeela Raja”, Nihalani says he was refused a release in places like Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These are traditional strongholds of Govinda. And not a single theatre in Patna or Ranchi agreed to play ‘Rangeela Raja’. Why? Because my film is bad? Are only quality films released in theatres? And who decides that my film is substandard? A handful of critics for whom I did not have a press show, so they are upset with me and they are taking it out on my film,” he said.

Dropping another bomb, Nihalani says he suspects the hands of some big guns in sabotaging “Rangeela Raja”.

“I know who they are. I know the people who want to finish off Govinda and me. The entertainment industry is run by a glamorous mafia. They all sit, eat, sleep and make movies together. Solo producers like me with no corporate backing are being pushed out of the film industry in the name of corporotization,” he said.

But Nihalani says he isn’t going away anywhere.

“I belong to this industry as much as those who are currently monopolising the A-list stars. I will make another film with Govinda and prove he too is an A-list star.”

Nihalani says he has always believed in introducing new talent and will continue to do so.

“I introduced Govinda and Chunky Pandey. In ‘Rangeela Raja’ I’ve introduced Mishika Chourasia. I am confident she has a very bright future. Unless the industry will punish her for being Pahlaj Nihalani’s protege.”

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BenQ launches 4K home cinema projectors in India

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New Delhi, Jan 22 : Taiwanese electronics company BenQ on Tuesday launched two new 4K home cinema projectors — “W2700” and “W5700” — with CinematicColor technology, projector-optimised HDR-PRO support and individual factory colour calibration in India.

The new projectors, “W2700” and “W5700”, priced at Rs 2.49 lakh and Rs 2.99 lakh respectively, are the world’s first 4K home cinema projectors, the company said.

“With this new range of 4K projectors, we are extremely optimistic that these will turn any room into a world-class home theatre with video enhancing technologies,” said Rajeev Singh, Managing Director, BenQ India.

Fuelled by DCI-P3 colour space, “W2700” delivers the highest level of image accuracy while the “W5700” projector provides a 1.6X big zoom along with 2D H/V lens shift that is ideal for audio visual (AV) rooms.

The HDR-PRO supported projectors also incorporate auto colour and tone mapping techniques to offer improved brightness and contrast range along with ideal image optimization for vivid video quality.

Designed with a compact profile, the light weight projectors facilitate tailored AV personalization with versatile short throw, big zoom and lens shift for a wide range of home cinema possibilities, the company said.

The projectors would begin shipping in the first quarter of 2019.

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