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Indian Prime Minister Modi defends citizenship bill at rally

February 2, 2019
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Thakurnagar, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Modi has praised a controversial citizenship bill pending in Parliament at a rally in West Bengal state, kick-starting his Hindu nationalist party's campaign to retain power in general elections due by May. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

KOLKATA, India (AP) — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised a controversial citizenship bill pending in Parliament at a rally Saturday, 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 non-Muslim 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.

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