India slaps cases against critics of plan to grant citizenship to non-Muslims

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – Indian police on Friday said they are investigating an academic, a journalist and a peasant leader for possible sedition for publicly opposing a proposal to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from neighboring Muslim-majority countries.

Critics have called the proposal 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 cases have been filed amid a wave of protests in the BJP-governed northeastern state of Assam. A small regional party in India quit the ruling coalition on Monday in protest against the plan.

The Modi government is facing growing criticism for stifling criticism, including in the media. A television journalist in the region was jailed last month for criticizing the government on social media.

“We have registered a case against a few people based on certain statements that they made at a public rally in Guwahati,” Deepak Kumar, a police official from Guwahati in Assam, told Reuters.

The three have not been charged.

Many people fear such a move could change the demographic profile of Assam, where residents have for years complained that immigrants from Bangladesh have put a big strain on resources.

Hiren Gohain, an 80-year-old academic, peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta have been accused of criminal conspiracy and attempting to wage a war against the government, Kumar said.

The bill, which seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, has been passed by the lower house of the parliament.

The bill will be tabled for approval in the upper house in the next session, where it is expected to face resistance from the opposition Congress party. The BJP does not have a majority in the upper house of the parliament.

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India slaps cases against critics of plan to grant citizenship to non-Muslims

GUWAHATI, India (REUTERS) – Indian police on Friday (Jan 11) said they are investigating an academic, a journalist and a peasant leader for possible sedition for publicly opposing a proposal to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring Muslim-majority countries.

Critics have called the proposal 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 cases have been filed amid a wave of protests in the BJP-governed north-eastern state of Assam. A small regional party in India quit the ruling coalition on Monday in protest against the plan.

The Modi government is facing growing criticism for stifling criticism, including in the media. A television journalist in the region was jailed last month for criticising the government on social media.

“We have registered a case against a few people based on certain statements that they made at a public rally in Guwahati,” Deepak Kumar, a police official from Guwahati in Assam, told Reuters.

The three have not been charged.

Many people fear such a move could change the demographic profile of Assam, where residents have for years complained that immigrants from Bangladesh have put a big strain on resources.

Hiren Gohain, an 80-year-old academic, peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta have been accused of criminal conspiracy and attempting to wage a war against the government, Kumar said.

The Bill, which seeks to give citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, has been passed by the Lower House of the Parliament.

The Bill will be tabled for approval in the Upper House in the next session, where it is expected to face resistance from the opposition Congress party. The BJP does not have a majority in the upper house of the Parliament.

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Malaysia to enact law to protect monarchy from slander amid fallout over king's resignation

PUTRAJAYA – The Malaysian government will enact legislation to protect the monarchy from “slander and attacks” in the wake of the unprecedented resignation of the country’s constitutional monarch.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong said on Thursday (Jan 10) that existing laws will also be amended, the official Bernama news agency reported.

“Ours is a constitutional monarchy. So, the government must always ensure that our rulers are protected from unfounded slander and attacks by irresponsible people,” Datuk Liew was quoted as telling reporters after delivering a new year message to staff of the Legal Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department.

The move comes as Malaysia grapples with the abrupt resignation of Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V as the country’s 15th king, or Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, purportedly following his recent marriage to a Russian model.

The sultan’s unprecedented departure mid-way through his five-year term sparked a scramble to avert a constitutional crisis. The new king is now due to be selected by the Conference of Rulers on Jan 24, and be sworn in on Jan 31.

Police have arrested three people under the Sedition Act for allegedly mocking the former monarch on Facebook and Twitter.

Things that are deemed to be seditious by law include those that “raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong or of the ruler of any state”.

Offenders can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed up to three years, or both.

Mr Liew said the laws must provide for the punishment of “irresponsible people” who do not respect the institution of the monarchy. Current penalties for certain offences against the monarchy were too lenient, he was cited by Bernama as saying.

“The objective is to ensure that our constitutional monarchy will always be protected from all kinds of attack,” Mr Liew said.

The government would study the constitutional monarchies in Commonwealth countries for the new laws, he added.

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