India Citizenship Amendment Act: Fresh violence erupts in Delhi

18 December 2019 09:02 am - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A massive protest has broken out in India's capital Delhi as anger at a citizenship law spreads across the country.

Images from the city's Seelampur area showed stone-throwing crowds confronting police officers. Police retaliated with tear gas and batons.

Local reports say several protesters and officers were injured.

The protest comes days after clashes between police and protesters in Delhi left at least 50 people injured.

The new law offers citizenship to non-Muslims from three nearby countries.

Seelampur, in the east of the city, has a large Muslim population. Protesters are claiming that the act will marginalise them.

There were reports of a police station being set on fire and police said buses were vandalised.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to hear a petition against the police action inside Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University, where they allegedly attacked students inside campus premises, including the library and toilets.

Chief Justice Sharad Bobde said the top court did not have to intervene since it was "a law-and-order problem". He also told lawyers to file petitions in trial courts.

More protests broke out, including at Jamia Millia Islamia.

A student there told the BBC that hundreds of students had joined demonstrations for the third day in a row.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new law did not affect any citizen of India of any religion but was "for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no place to go except India".

But some say the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is discriminatory and part of a "Hindu nationalist" agenda to marginalise India's 200-million Muslim minority.

Others - particularly in border states - fear being "overrun" by new arrivals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Act offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries.

It amends India's 64-year-old citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

It also expedites the path to Indian citizenship for members of six religious minority communities - Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian - if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will now only have to live or work in India for six years - instead of 11 years - before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

It also says people holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards - an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely - can lose their status if they violate local laws for both major and minor offences and violations.

Opponents say the law is exclusionary, is part of an agenda to marginalise Muslims, and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship.

However, the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says it is only trying to give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution.

This was the third straight day of protests in the capital, after a student protest on Sunday turned violent and left dozens injured.

Many of the injured were participating in protests at universities in Delhi.

Ten people, many of whom have "criminal backgrounds", have been arrested, Delhi police said on Tuesday. Amid criticism for using "excessive force" inside campus premises, they added that no students were detained.

Police said locals who lived near the campus had joined the protests and attacked officers.

A hospital spokesperson said two people were admitted with bullet wounds, according to local media - something denied by police.

The BBC has seen the medical report of a third person - who said he was a passer-by, not a protester - who thought he had been shot in his thigh.

The report confirmed only that a "foreign object" had been removed under sedation. The injured man told the BBC he saw police shoot at him with a pistol or revolver.

Apart from those who are receiving treatment in Delhi, one student from the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has had his hand amputated after sustaining injuries.

Mohammad Tariq, a PhD student in chemistry, was studying inside the campus library when police stormed in.

Students present at the protest told BBC Hindi's Priyanka Dubey that Mr Tariq was hit on the hand by a piece of a tear-gas shell when he ran out of the building.

Doctors told BBC Hindi that they had no choice but to amputate his hand - the one he writes with - because the injury was a grave one and the infection was spreading.

There is no consolidated number of how many people have been injured in protests across the country, but doctors told BBC Hindi that at least 80 students in AMU had been admitted to hospital with injuries.

This is in addition to at least 50 people who are known to have been injured in Delhi.

The anger has spread across the country, with protests reported at more than a dozen universities.

Many of the student demonstrations were fuelled by the perceived police brutality on Sunday.

Students in Delhi, the southern city of Chennai and Varanasi in the north protested against the government and in support of their fellow students at Jamia Millia Islamia.

Footage from the northern city of Lucknow on Monday showed students throwing stones at security forces, who threw the stones back.

Officers were also seen hitting students with sticks.

In Kolkata, tens of thousands of people joined a demonstration led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her ruling Trinamool Congress party, marching against the law itself.

On Monday, Mr Modi sent four tweets to defend the law.

He said it was passed by both houses of parliament with "overwhelming support", and that it illustrated "India's centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion, and brotherhood".

"I want to unequivocally assure my fellow Indians that CAA [the law] does not affect any citizen of India of any religion," he added.

But Rahul Gandhi - Mr Modi's defeated opponent in the 2019 election - said both the law and a controversial citizens' register were "weapons of mass polarisation unleashed by fascists". (BBC)

  Comments - 4

  • alaap Wednesday, 18 December 2019 09:26 AM

    Narendra modi has not learnt his lesson from Gujarat riots. Indian media now compare modi's India with nazi germany.

    Sunil Wednesday, 18 December 2019 11:18 AM

    This was a citizenship act passed in parliment and not Mr. Modi. This shows how brave the Indian government against the odds...

    Mm Wednesday, 18 December 2019 11:20 AM

    people should just live in their own country of birth

    lal Wednesday, 18 December 2019 01:37 PM

    Indian parliament did what modi wanted. MPs do not work in a vacuum. Its BJP party agenda.


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