- Visits cancelled amid protests in northeast over Citizenship Bill
- Bill promises citizenship to non-Muslims from neighbouring countries
- India denied Foreign Minister's decision linked to Citizenship Bill
Hours after Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that he was cancelling a visit to India, the country's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan also called off a trip to Meghalaya amid violent protests in the northeast over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Mr Khan was scheduled to visit Meghalaya for an event tomorrow.
Earlier, AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit to India due to "increasing demands at home". "I had to cancel my trip to New Delhi as I have to participate in Buddijibi Debosh (Martyred Intellectuals Day - December 14) and Bijoy Debosh (Victory Day of Bangladesh - December 16) and more so as our State Minister is out of the country in Madrid and our Foreign Secretary is in The Hague. Given increasing demand at home, I decided to cancel his trip," Mr Momen said earlier, according to news agency ANI.
Shortly after news of the Foreign Minister's cancellation, External Affairs Ministry (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar addressed a media briefing and cautioned against "reading too much" into Mr Momen's decision. According to news agency ANI Mr Momen was to visit India between December 12 and 14 to attend the Indian Ocean Dialogue and hold talks with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar. An advisory issued by the MEA said he was expected in New Delhi at 5.20 pm.
"We know the visit has been cancelled... I understand the Foreign Minister has given an explanation. Our relations are strong, like our two leaders have said repeatedly said, and I don't think this cancellation will have any effect," Raveesh Kumar said.
Massive protests have broken out in Assam and parts of the northeast following the passage of the Citizenship Bill, which looks to make Indian citizens of non-Muslim refugees facing religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, in the Rajya Sabha late Wednesday night.
Earlier this week Mr Momen, speaking to reporters in Dhaka, said allegations of repression of minorities in his country were "untrue".
Mr Momen also praised India for being a "historically tolerant country" but said that legacy of secularism could be "weakened". He added: "... naturally our people expect India won't do anything that could create anxiety among them".
Questioned over the Bangladesh Foreign Minister's comments, the MEA spokesperson said it had been "made clear" persecution had not taken place under the current Bangladesh government.
Protests in Assam have also thrown Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe; the two were to meet in Guwahati and Imphal on Sunday and Monday. The MEA spokesperson declined to comment, "saying he had no update to share right now".
At least three people have died and five columns of the Indian Army - each consisting of 70 personnel - have been deployed in Assam amid the raging protests. Mobile internet services have been suspended in 10 districts of the state since Wednesday evening; neighbouring Tripura suspended the same for 48 hours starting Tuesday and Meghalaya this evening.