At least three dead as protests rage across India

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - At least three protesters were killed in violent clashes across several Indian cities after thousands defied a government ban on protests against a contentious citizenship law on Thursday.

Many say the legislation passed last week is anti-Muslim and several organisations had called for people to join the protests against the law that allows only non-Muslim nationals from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to take up Indian nationality.

Two men - Abdul Jalil, 49, and Samshir Kudroli, 23 - "died in police firing during the protests" in Mangalore, Qadir Shah, a spokesman for the deputy commissioner of the southern city said.

Police used live ammunition in Mangalore and the city of Lucknow, in India’s north, after thousands of protesters took to the streets.

Four protesters sustained gunshot wounds in Mangalore, where authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew following clashes between police and protesters. The injured were being treated at a hospital, officials said.

A police official in Lucknow said a protester was killed during day-long clashes in the city, where similar protests erupted on Wednesday, prompting authorities to impose a ban on gatherings across the northern Uttar Pradesh state.

"One protester has died and two others are injured," a police official said on condition of anonymity.

He did not elaborate on what caused the protester’s death.

A motorbike burns after being set on fire during demonstrations in Mangalore. AFP
A motorbike burns after being set on fire during demonstrations in Mangalore. AFP

In the state’s Sambhal district, protesters torched four buses and pelted stones at policemen during violent clashes that have spread to other parts of the country.

Police used tear gas shells and charged at protesters with batons to disperse them.

The violence erupted as thousands of protesters were detained across many Indian cities following a government ban on public gatherings and a brief but rare mobile communications ban in the national capital.

Authorities in West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Telangana had issued orders to foil the protests.

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has argued that the Citizenship Amendment Act will benefit millions of members of "persecuted" religious minorities fleeing the three countries.

But the move has angered many Indians who say the law goes against the grain of India's secular constitution and could be used against country's 200-million strong Muslim population under a proposed move to create a nationwide citizens’ registry.

The protests have spiralled into a nationwide movement against the controversial new law.

In New Delhi, police have erected barricades and imposed orders to thwart demonstrators from gathering at the iconic Red Fort monument.

Hundreds of protesters were bundled onto waiting buses and lodged in police stations across the city but several of them reached the central Jantar Mantar venue.

Several metro stations were closed in the capital to check people from joining the protests while police blocked a key highway connecting Delhi with neighbouring Gurgaon city.

Almost 20 flights were cancelled outright after crew got stuck in traffic jam on a national highway and a further 16 flights were delayed.

“This law is against India and its people and the world. We cannot accept dictators in a democracy,” Rajat, protesting in New Delhi, said.

"For six years, people kept silent thinking the government is working for us but when you bring divisive laws like CAA, it's time to shake them up. Enough is enough,” said Vikram Jha, who joined demonstrations in the capital.

Police clash with a protester on Thursday. AFP
Police clash with a protester on Thursday. AFP

Similar protests were held in at least ten other major cities across India, where thousands rallied against the discriminatory law.

In Bangalore city, over 100 protesters including prominent historian Ramachandra Guha, were detained and taken into preventive custody for defying the ban.

Several Bollywood actors joined the protesters in Mumbai, where thousands of have taken to streets in the past week.

In Ahmedabad, the biggest city of neighbouring Gujarat – Mr Modi's home state - police charged at protesters after they took to streets.

Mr Modi has said the act would have no effect on the citizenship of any Indian, no matter their religion.

Protests have continued in north-east states of Assam and Tripura, where demonstrators are angered by the law that they say will allow tens of thousands of Bengali-speaking Hindu immigrants to settle in their homelands.

Last week, six people were killed in Guwahati, Assam’s largest city, over fears that immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, will overrun their land, culture and language.

Updated: December 19, 2019 11:49 PM

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