The Bangladesh Parliament Speaker cancelled her tour to India on Sunday, just a day before her visit, reported Dhaka Tribune. “Speaker Dr Shirin [Sharmin Chaudhury] was scheduled to lead an 18-member delegation to India following an invitation from Lok Sabha, but the tour has been cancelled,” Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury Liton, the chief whip of Parliament, told the newspaper.
This comes as there are large-scale protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. Last week, violence erupted in North East Delhi after clashes between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act. It has so far claimed 46 lives while over 200 have been injured. The Delhi Police have been accused of either inaction or complicity in the violence.
However, Liton refused to link the cancellation of the delegation’s visit to the ongoing protests. “There will be special session of Jatiya Sangsad on March 22-23 on the occasion of Mujib Year,” he told Dhaka Tribune. “We need to prepare everything for the special parliamentary session. Keeping this in mind, the delegation led by the speaker will not be travelling to India.” Bangladesh is celebrating the centenary of the country’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The delegation will visit India after the special session is over, he added. The delegation was to include the Speaker, the chief whip, the secretary of parliament secretariat and other top officials of the government.
Amid tension over the citizenship law, three Bangladesh ministers have earlier cancelled their visits to India. In January, Bangladesh Deputy Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam cancelled a scheduled visit to New Delhi to attend the Ministry of External Affairs’ annual Raisina Dialogue Conference. Alam’s decision to not visit India came after Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his three-day India visit on December 12 and a day later his Cabinet colleague, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, cancelled a scheduled personal visit to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people died in December during the protests, with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal in January.