• Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:34 am

Indian states propose land rights amid citizenship fears

  • Published at 05:48 pm December 23rd, 2019
Women display placards during a protest, organised by West Bengal State Jamiat-e-Ulama, an Islamic organisation, against a new citizenship law, in Kolkata, India, December 22, 2019 Reuters

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and state responsibilities to protect them

Authorities in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal have vowed to protect the land rights of indigenous people and refugees amidst protests against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

In the north-eastern state of Assam, a planned law will prevent indigenous people from selling land to non-indigenous persons, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

"That means our land will be preserved for our people," Sarma told reporters at the weekend after the state cabinet passed the measure.

But there is little clarity on the definition of an indigenous person in the state, where nearly 2 million people were left off a citizens' register earlier this year.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of the land in the state, which borders Muslim-majority Bangladesh, is common land, said Walter Fernandes, a senior fellow at the North Eastern Social Research Centre, a think tank.

"When so much of the land belongs to the state, there is no question of selling or transferring that land," he said.

"There are also several definitions of indigenous people, including tribal people, Assamese people, and others who have lived in the state for several decades. So it is not clear who the law will benefit," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says that the new Citizenship Amendment Act is aimed at helping non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who fled to India before 2015, with a pathway to Indian citizenship.

But many Indians believe that the law discriminates against Muslims and violates the country's secular constitution by making religion a test for citizenship.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and state responsibilities to protect them.

Nor does it have a domestic law to protect the more than 200,000 refugees it hosts, including Tibetans, Sri Lankans, Afghans, Bangladeshis and Rohingyas from Myanmar.

Modi, in a rally on Sunday, said his government has introduced reforms without any religious bias.

At least 21 people have died in clashes with police as thousands of people took to the streets in towns and cities across India to protest the law, marking the biggest challenge to Modi's leadership since he first swept to power in 2014.

Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal's chief minister, said she will not implement the citizenship law in the state.

She said her government will expedite giving land rights to tens of thousands of immigrants who have lived in the state for nearly five decades.

"The state has been granting land titles to migrants from Nepal and Bangladesh, which gives them an identity and some measure of protection," said Fernandes.

"It lets them be counted as legal."

Facebook 51
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail