Indian Prime Minister defends citizenship bill at rally

KOLKATA, India (AP) — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised a controversial citizenship bill pending in Parliament at a rally yesterday, kick-starting his Hindu nationalist party’s campaign to retain power in general elections due by May.

In a speech broadcast live from the rally in West Bengal state, Modi urged the opposition Trinamool Congress party-led government of West Bengal to support the bill, saying “my brothers and sisters here need it.”

The bill, which passed the lower house of Parliament earlier this month, would give citizenship to some Hindus, Jains, Parsi and several other religious groups from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Protests against the bill have rocked northeastern Indian states bordering Bangladesh.

The initiative is part of a Modi government effort to promote India as a sanctuary for persecuted Hindus globally.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a floral garland during a public meeting in Thakurnagar, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. – AP