Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan cancelled a scheduled personal visit to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on Friday because of ongoing protests against the amended Citizenship Act in various parts of the North East, reported The Hindu.
At least two people have died in Assam, and internet has been blocked in Meghalaya. A curfew will be imposed in Shillong from 10 pm, according to reports.
Khan’s decision came hours after his Cabinet colleague, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, cancelled his three-day visit to India that was scheduled to begin on Thursday. “I had to cancel my trip to New Delhi as I have to participate in the Buddhijibi Dibosh and Bijoy Dibosh, and more so as our state minister is out of the country in Madrid and our foreign secretary is in The Hague,” Momen said, adding that he was “looking forward to attending the next meeting in January”.
On Wednesday, Momen had said the proposed amendments could weaken India’s character as a secular nation. “India is historically a tolerant country which believes in secularism [but] their historic position will be weakened if they deviate from that,” he added.
The amendments to a 1955 law that were approved by Parliament on Wednesday will grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Sikhs from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, provided they have resided in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs responded to Momen’s decision to not visit, denying that India had ever said religious persecution had occurred in Bangladesh during the current government’s tenure.
“We’ve explained that religious persecution is not happening under present [Bangladesh] government,” said ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. “Migrants who have sought refuge in India from Bangladesh have faced persecution and abuse on religious grounds during the military rule and also during the previous governments in Bangladesh.” He added that the Sheikh Hasina government had taken steps to substantially address the concerns of minorities as per constitutional provisions.