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Indian Politician Claims Bangladesh Denied Him Entry Over Criticism of Citizenship Amendment Act

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New Delhi (Sputnik): In the last few weeks, political leaders and thousands of students have come out on the streets across India to oppose the contentious new law that grants citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan but excludes Muslims immigrants from these three nations.

A Minister from India's West Bengal State claims the Bangladesh government denied him permission to visit the country. He alleges it's because of being vocal in criticising the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which allows only non-Muslim immigrants from the country citizenship.

Siddiqullah Choudhury is West Bengal's Deputy Minister for Mass Education, Library and Parliamentary Affairs. He said he had requested the Bangladesh High Commission's consulate in Kolkata city on 23 December to grant him a visa to undertake a "personal visit" to Dhaka after he had received clearances from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the government in West Bengal.

He was to leave for Dhaka on Thursday morning on a six-day-long trip.

The Bangladesh High Commission's consulate, however, limited itself to saying that: "We forward visa applications to Dhaka to get necessary clearance in certain cases. The clearance from Dhaka has not yet reached our Kolkata office. Our office was closed on Wednesday for Christmas." 

Dhaka's reported rejection of Choudhury's visa application came a day after Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen had announced that any Indian entering Bangladesh in recent weeks would be sent back if they were not Bangladeshi.

"Those who already entered Bangladesh through the Indian border, they will be sent back if they are not Bangladeshis. The Indian government informed that they would not forcefully push back anyone," Bangladesh daily, The Daily Star, quoted Foreign Minister Momen as saying on Wednesday.

"Any Bangladeshis found to be living illegally in India will be taken back after proper verification through the legal process and after scrutiny. "India was also informed " Momen further stated after attending the inauguration of the 'Nagar Express'bus service in Bangladesh's city of Sylhet.

Minister Choudhury has been one of the most strident voices within the ruling Trinamool Congress party, against the CAA which was passed by the Indian parliament earlier this month.

The CAA would grant citizenship to illegal immigrants from six religious minorities – Hindus, Parsis, Jains, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan if they arrived in India prior to 2015. But it explicitly excludes this privilege to Muslims from these countries.

In the last fortnight, Indian politicians like Choudhury have taken part in street demonstrations and protests along with students and people from other walks of life, against the new law which they claim is unconstitutional and promotes religious discrimination.

However, those supporting the contentious legislation have countered by saying that it opens a window of opportunity in terms of giving identity to the persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Aware of the sensitivity of the issue and its potential impact on bilateral ties with New Delhi, a wary Bangladesh is reportedly not keen to host anyone who is seen as being "too strident" about the CAA.

Given the volatile situation arising out of the ongoing protests in India, it may be recalled that both the foreign and home ministers of Bangladesh (A.K. Abdul Momen and Asaduzzaman Khan) had cancelled their pre-scheduled official visits to New Delhi and Meghalaya respectively, earlier this month. Both however cited prior domestic commitments as the reason for doing so.

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