India's government has tabled a bill in parliament which offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries. The controversial bill seeks to provide citizenship to religious minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says this will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution. Critics say the bill is part of a BJP agenda to marginalise Muslims. The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) will be a test for the ruling party, which commands a majority in the lower house but is short of numbers in the upper house of parliament. A bill needs to be ratified by both houses to become a law. The bill has already prompted widespread protests in the north-east of the country which borders Bangladesh, as people there feel that they will be "overrun" by immigrants from across the border. The CAB amends the 64-year-old Indian Citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens. It defines illegal immigrants as foreigners who enter India without a valid passport or travel documents, or stay beyond the permitted time. Illegal immigrants can be deported or jailed. The new bill also amends a provision which says a person must have lived in India or worked for the federal government for at least 11 years before they can apply for citizenship.
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