Indian Police Battle Anti-Modi Protesters Over Disputed Law

Protesters hold placards and shout slogans against India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they participate in a protest against India’s new citizenship law, in Kolkata on January 11, 2020.
Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

 

Indian police baton-charged protesters Sunday to stop them reaching Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s car as nationwide protests against a bitterly disputed citizenship law entered a second month.

Tens of thousands staged protests through the night in the eastern city of Kolkata to denounce Modi’s weekend visit to the capital of West Bengal state, whose local rulers have strongly opposed the legislation.

Police said they were forced to act after protesters tried to storm past barricades to stop Modi’s vehicle outside a stadium, where the leader again defended the law and insisted the demonstrators were “misguided”.

Nearly 2,000 protesters gathered outside chanting “Fascist Modi, Go Back” before the showdown between demonstrators and police. More than 100 protesters were detained, a police official said.

Protesters have burned effigies of the prime minister during his visit and brandished black flags — considered an insulting gesture in Indian society.

“The government can’t suppress our voice. We are not afraid. We are determined to fight for our rights,” Samit Nandi, one of the protesters, told AFP. “We will continue our protests until Modi leaves our city.”

West Bengal has become a political battlefield between Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and regional powerhouse Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress party leads the state.

Banerjee is among state leaders nationwide who have said they will not implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, which excludes Muslims from a list of ethnic minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who are allowed to seek Indian nationality.

Opponents say the government has created a religious test for citizenship in the secular country.

Many among India’s 200 million Muslims fear the law is a precursor to a national register of citizens that could leave them stateless in the country of 1.3 billion. Many poor Indians do not have documents to prove their nationality.

“CAA is not about taking away citizenship, it is about giving citizenship,” Modi told supporters.

He has accused political opponents of “misleading” and “inciting” people against his government.

Widespread demonstrations have rocked the Hindu-majority nation since the law was approved by parliament last month.

At least 27 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed with police accused of using disproportionate force in several states.

Home Minister Amit Shah, the government number two, also held a rally in Jabalpur on Sunday to build support for the law and several hundred supporters of the measure marched in New Delhi.

But in a new sign of international unease over the law, a third Bangladesh minister cancelled a visit to Delhi in apparent protest. Deputy foreign minister Shahriar Alam was to have attended a diplomatic syposium in the Indian capital this week.

Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off separate visits in December. The government has denied any link to the new law, however.

The United Nations and a US government religious freedom commission have also expressed concern.

AFP

Two Indian Soldiers Killed In Kashmir Gunfight

 

 

Two Indian soldiers were killed Wednesday in a gunfight with suspected militants along the border that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir between archrivals India and Pakistan, officials said.

The two were killed during an operation to intercept Pakistani infiltrators who were attempting to cross the heavily-militarised border into India, the Press Trust of India news agency reported officials as saying.

The operation was still in progress, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Devender Anand said in a statement.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged for decades in Kashmir, and has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens Iran After Baghdad Embassy Attack

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and sending them across the border to launch attacks on Indian forces.

Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been tense since New Delhi revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status in August and imposed a security and communications lockdown.

Some of the restrictions have since been eased, including SMS services which were restored on Tuesday.

Five local politicians were released from detention last Thursday although several other prominent leaders remain in custody.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The archrivals have fought two of their three wars over the territory.

Bangladesh Shuts Mobile Network Along India Border

 

 

Bangladesh has cut services to millions of mobile phones along its border with India for “security” reasons amid fears a new citizenship law passed by its giant neighbour could prompt an influx of migrants.

The country’s telecom regulator ordered the mobile shutdown late Monday along a one-kilometre (0.6-mile) band along the Indian frontier, the watchdog’s spokesman Sohel Rana said.

The directive was issued “for the sake of the country’s security in the current circumstances,” the spokesman told AFP.

Bangladesh shares a 4,000-kilometre (2,500-mile) border with India and the shutdown would affect some 10 million mobile phone users, according to a top official from one operator.

“A large number of people in the border area will be without internet, voice and other mobile services,” said S.M. Farhad, a spokesman for an industry association of local telecom operators.

Officials from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said that the move was prompted by fears of fallout from India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act, which accords rights to refugee migrants from neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims.

“We are worried that India’s current condition may prompt many people to enter Bangladesh,” said a BTRC official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At least 350 people had been arrested as they entered western border district of Jhenidah from India’s West Bengal state in the last two months, an official said, adding they were mostly Bangladeshi Muslims who went to India illegally.

Local border guard commander Kamrul Ahsan said the number of people entering Bangladesh from India had risen dramatically as a result of the citizenship law.

Two weeks of protests over the law in India have seen at least 27 people killed and hundreds injured after clashes between police and protesters.

The earlier exclusion of nearly two million people from a new list of citizens in India’s Assam state has already triggered fears of deportations to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has said attempts to deport people from India had been thwarted by border guards in recent weeks.

Media reports said hundreds of people who have recently entered Bangladesh from India have been detained by border guards.

AFP

Locust Invasion Destroys Crops In Northwest India

 

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A massive locust invasion has destroyed thousands of hectares of crops in northwest India, authorities said, with some experts on Friday terming it the worst such attack in 25 years.

While officials have attempted to tackle the swarm with pesticides, farmers have deployed drums to drive away the insects, with videos showing schoolgirls banging on steel plates — due to local beliefs that loud noise repels locusts.

The invasion has damaged crops in half a dozen districts in the northwestern state of Gujarat, local government official Punamchand Parmar said Thursday.

More than 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) have been devastated in one district alone, Parmar said.

“Nearly 25 percent of the locusts had been destroyed using pesticide. However, it will take another 4-5 days to exterminate the insects completely,” he added.

“Their flight path was initially towards Pakistan but due to change in wind direction and moisture, they landed in… north Gujarat,” he said.

The head of the entomology department at Gujarat’s Anand Agriculture University, P. K. Borad, told AFP: “This is the worst locust attack witnessed in Gujarat in over two decades or so.”

“Such a huge swarm of locust was last seen in 1994,” he added.

The state’s agriculture minister R. C. Faldu said that from Friday onwards, 100 tractors carrying pesticides would be sent to the affected villages to get rid of the insects.

But villagers were not leaving anything to chance, with many walking around the affected farms and banging drums to chase away the insects.

“We have lost everything in our village” said one man.

AFP

Death Toll Rises In Indian Citizenship Law Protests

Indian soldiers look on as they patrol near the burnt wreckage of a vehicle during a curfew in Guwahati on December 12, 2019, following protests over the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).  Biju BORO / AFP

 

Six more protesters died in India Friday in fresh clashes between police and demonstrators, taking the death toll to 15 in more than a week of unrest triggered by a citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim.

The law — which makes it easier for persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries to gain citizenship, but not if they are Muslim — has stoked fears Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remould the world’s biggest democracy India as a Hindu nation, which he denies.

The latest deaths, in northern Uttar Pradesh where almost 20 percent of the state’s 200-million population are Muslim, followed the loss of three lives on Thursday when police opened fire on protesters in the northern city of Lucknow and the southern city of Mangalore.

Four of the demonstrators — two from Meerut and two from neighbouring Muzaffarnagar, both in Uttar Pradesh — died Friday from “gunshot wounds”, Meerut chief medical officer Rajkumar told AFP.

Rajkumar, who goes by one name, added that five police officers, including three with bullet wounds, were being treated in hospital.

Another demonstrator died of a gunshot wound in Bijnor district while the cause of the sixth death in Firozabad city was not yet known, local police spokesmen told AFP.

In the heart of India’s capital demonstrators held a sit-in protest at the Delhi Gate in the Old Delhi district, then marched to the country’s biggest mosque Jama Masjid in the afternoon.

The protesters later returned to Delhi Gate, where they clashed with baton-wielding police who deployed a water cannon to disperse the crowd.

The marchers, many chanting anti-Modi slogans, threw rocks at police in the street battle. At least one car was set on fire, and an AFP reporter saw demonstrators bleeding from their heads and mouths during the clashes.

“All the people here, be it those who are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian — they are all out on the streets,” Tanvi Gudiya told AFP at another Delhi rally in a Muslim neighbourhood after Friday prayers.

“So doesn’t it affect Modi at all? Does Modi not like anyone? Why is he becoming like Hitler?”

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, there were new clashes between security forces and protesters in Vadodara city, a day after battles in the largest city Ahmedabad left 20 policemen and 10 locals injured.

On Thursday, two people were killed in Mangalore when police opened fire on a crowd of around 200 people after they ignored orders to disperse, an official told AFP.

A protester also succumbed to gunshot injuries in Lucknow, said a doctor who declined to be named. Officers denied opening fire in the city.

Authorities have scrambled to contain the situation, imposing emergency laws, blocking internet access, and shutting down shops and restaurants in sensitive pockets across the country.

‘Unacceptable in a democracy’ 

Opposition parties in India, as well as international rights groups, have raised concerns about the law and the growing protests.

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Friday slammed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, saying it showed “utter disregard for people’s voices and chosen to use brute force to suppress dissent”.

“This is unacceptable in a democracy,” she added in a video posted on Twitter.

West Bengal state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, addressing a rally of more than 20,000 people in the state capital Kolkata Friday, said she “will not allow the federal government to implement” the law.

“India is burning. This is time for waking up,” she said, urging people to unite behind her movement.

More than 200 Christian leaders in India issued a joint statement Friday saying the laws passed since the BJP was re-elected in May have led “to the collapse of the democratic institutions of India… carefully and painstakingly built by enlightened leaders over the last seven decades”.

In a strongly worded editorial, the Indian Express said the government must do all it can “to keep the peace” in the country, home to 200 million Muslims.

“But in doing so the world’s largest democracy cannot look like it cannot accommodate its young who disagree, it cannot afford to signal that it is so ill at ease with itself.

“India risks a lot if it begins to be seen as a place where the dissenter’s mind is not without fear.”

AFP

Indian Lawmaker Gets Life For Raping Teen In Landmark Case

 

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An Indian lawmaker was sentenced to life Friday for raping a teenager whose plight police ignored until she tried to set herself on fire, in a case highlighting the impunity often enjoyed by the powerful.

The day after she did so last year her father died in police custody, with the family alleging he was tortured for pursuing the case. Later she was critically injured in a suspicious car crash.

On Monday the court convicted Kuldeep Singh Sengar of raping the-then 17-year-old at his home in Uttar Pradesh state in 2017, and his sentence was handed down Friday.

Sengar, 53, was expelled from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in August as the case started to make headlines — but remained a lawmaker.

“This court does not find any mitigating circumstance. Sengar was (a) public servant and (he) betrayed people’s faith,” the Press Trust of India reported the judge as saying.

After her rape, police in the notoriously lawless northern state initially refused to take action on her complaint against the four-time legislator.

Nearly a year after her assault, the girl tried to set herself on fire outside the home of Uttar Pradesh leader, and BJP stalwart, Yogi Adityanath, in protest.

A separate trial is being held over the car accident that injured the woman, who cannot be named, amid allegations it was a hit carried out on Sengar’s orders.

The case was heard in Delhi from August 5 after the Supreme Court ordered the trial be moved from Uttar Pradesh, where the politician enjoyed considerable clout.

Sengar, who was tried under child protection laws as the victim was a minor at the time of the assault, denied the charges.

He was also fined 2.5 million rupees ($35,120).

AFP

India Court Convicts Former Ruling Lawmaker Of Teen Rape

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A former ruling party lawmaker was convicted Monday of raping a teenager in a high-profile case that underscored India’s rampant sexual violence and the impunity enjoyed by the elite.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a powerful four-time state legislator for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was found guilty of raping the-then 17-year-old at his home in Uttar Pradesh in 2017, lawyers said.

Sentencing will be announced later this week.

The verdict came amid renewed public anger about sexual assaults in India and the failures of the overloaded criminal justice system in tackling such crimes.

Early this month, four rape-murder suspects were killed in what police claimed was a “shootout” in the southern city of Hyderabad, and a woman died after her alleged attackers set her on fire en route to court in Uttar Pradesh state.

It also falls on the anniversary of the brutal 2012 gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi that triggered nationwide protests and international outrage.

Sengar, who was expelled from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in August, broke down in tears as the verdict was announced in the district court in New Delhi.

Judge Dharmesh Sharma said the “unshaken testimony” of the victim and “sufficient evidence” had proved Sengar’s guilt.

“I found her statement truthful and unblemished that she was sexually assaulted,” the judge said in the verdict.

The case was heard from August 5 after the Supreme Court ordered the trial be moved to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh, where the politician enjoyed considerable clout.

The victim’s father died last year in police custody after being accused of keeping firearms illegally, with the family alleging he was arrested and tortured by police for trying to pursue the case.

The woman was also critically injured in a suspicious car crash in July. A separate trial is being held over the accident amid allegations it was a hit carried out on Sengar’s orders.

The sense of impunity enjoyed by Sengar, 53,  sparked revulsion and protests across India.

Sengar, who was tried under child protection laws as the victim was a minor at the time of the assault, denied the charges.

India’s rape laws were overhauled after the 2012 bus gang rape but high numbers of assaults persist.

More than 33,000 rape cases were reported in 2017, according to latest available official data.

India Protests Spread Over ‘Anti-Muslim’ Law

A man walks on a street as a bus is on fire following a demonstration against the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in New Delhi on December 15, 2019.  STR / AFP

 

Fresh protests rocked India on Monday as anger grew over new citizenship legislation slammed as anti-Muslim, with six people dead in the northeast and up to 100 reported injured in New Delhi.

The law fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring countries, but critics allege it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise the 200 million Indians who follow Islam.

In the country’s northeast, however, even allowing non-Muslims citizenship is opposed by many locals who fear their culture is threatened by Bengali-speaking Hindus.

Modi, who insists he is not anti-Muslim, said the citizenship law is “1,000 per cent correct” and that Muslims from the three countries are not covered because they have no need of India’s protection.

Rahul Gandhi, former opposition Congress chief, tweeted on Monday that the law and a mooted nationwide register of citizens also seen as anti-Muslim were “weapons of mass polarisation unleashed by fascists”.

On Sunday night in Delhi, police with batons fired tear gas and charged protesting students before storming a university.

On Monday fresh protests took place in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Lucknow, where hundreds of students — most of them Muslims, television pictures indicated — tried to storm a police station, hurling volleys of stones at officers cowering behind a wall.

In the east in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal, thousands gathered for a major demonstration called by state premier Mamata Banerjee, a firebrand opponent of Modi.

In recent days empty trains were torched there and on Monday internet access remained suspended.

In Kerala in the south, another state whose government refuses to implement the citizenship law, several hundred people also protested. Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac tweeted: “United action of all secular force is the need of the hour.”

 Weekend of violence 

Protests were reported in Mumbai, West Bengal, Aligarh, Hyderabad, Patna and Raipur over the weekend.

Authorities in northern Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, have cut internet access in western parts of the state following demonstrations in Aligarh, home to a large university and a sizeable Muslim population.

The main epicentre of the protests has been in India’s far-flung northeastern states, long a seething and violent melting pot of ethnic tensions.

There, where protesters are mostly Hindu, late last week four people died from gunshot wounds, one in a fire and a sixth beaten to death.

On Sunday night in Assam state — following days of rioting and clashes with police — around 6,000 people protested on Sunday evening, with no major incidents reported.

Modi blamed the main opposition Congress party and its allies of “stoking fire”, saying those creating violence “can be identified by their clothes” — a comment interpreted by some as referring to Muslims.

The UN human rights office said last week it was concerned the law “would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution”, while Washington and the European Union have also expressed concern.

The new law is being challenged in the Supreme Court by rights groups and a Muslim political party, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s cherished secular traditions.

Ashok Swain, a professor at Sweden’s Uppsala University said that the scale of the protests had caught Modi’s government, which is presiding over a serious slowdown in economic growth, off guard.

“The protest is getting international attention and also spreading to different parts of the country. This certainly will add pressure on the regime when the economy has failed,” Swain told AFP.

AFP

Six Dead In Protests Against Indian Citizenship Law

 

 

Angry protesters in northeast India vowed Sunday to keep demonstrating against a contentious citizenship law as the death toll from bloody clashes opposing the bill rose to six.

Tension remained high at the epicentre of the unrest in Assam state’s biggest city, Guwahati, with troops patrolling the streets amid tight security.

In Assam, four people died after being shot by police, while another was killed when a shop he was sleeping in was set on fire and a sixth after he was beaten up during a protest, officials said.

Some 5,000 people took part in a fresh demonstration in the city on Sunday, with hundreds of police watching as they sang, chanted and carried banners with the words “long live Assam”.

The legislation, passed by the national parliament on Wednesday, allows New Delhi to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries on or before December 31, 2014 – but not if they are Muslim.

Besides stoking concern among Muslims, the proposed changes have also led to demonstrations by residents unhappy about an influx of Hindus from neighbouring Bangladesh who stand to gain citizenship.

“Assam will continue to protest. India is a democracy and the government has to listen to us,” said Karan Mili, a colleague of one of the victims, 25-year-old Iswor Nayak, who died Sunday.

“We don’t want violence but protests will continue… Assamese will not stop until government revokes the law,” another demonstrator, Pratima Sharma, told AFP.

Officials said oil and gas production in the state were hit by the curfew, although the restrictions were eased during the day on Sunday with some shops opening.

In West Bengal state, where protests stretched into a third day, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — who has spoken out against the national government’s push for the law — suspended internet services in several districts.

Demonstrators set fire to tyres, staged sit-ins on highways and railway tracks, and torched trains and buses, with riot police brought in to disperse protesters and train services suspended in some parts of the east.

In India’s capital New Delhi, video shared on social media showed a bus on fire and police appearing to fire tear gas at protesters.

Calls for Calm

Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed the opposition Congress party for the violence.

“To give respect to those who fled to India and were forced to live as refugees, both houses of parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” he said Sunday at a rally in eastern Jharkhand state.

“Congress and its allies are stoking fire over the Citizenship Act but people of northeast have rejected violence… They (Congress supporters) are resorting to arson because they did not get their way.”

Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday called again for calm, saying local cultures in northeastern states were not under threat.

“Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from the northeast will remain intact,” Shah added in Jharkhand, News18 television network reported him as saying.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights activists and others in India, the new law is seen as part of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies the allegation.

Rights groups and a Muslim political party are challenging the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s secular traditions.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally in Assam, Asom Gana Parishad, which had supported the bill in parliament, told local media Sunday it now intended to challenge the law in the Supreme Court.

US, UK Warn Citizens Against Travelling To NE India After Clashes

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Washington and London issued travel warnings for northeast India as opponents of a new citizenship law geared up for more protests Saturday, following days of clashes that saw two people killed and dozens injured.

Many in the far-flung, resource-rich region fear the new legislation will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, who they accuse of stealing jobs and diluting the region’s cultural identity.

No major incidents were reported overnight in Guwahati in Assam state, the epicentre of the protests, where two were shot dead and 26 hospitalised this week after security forces fired blank and live rounds, medical staff said.

The funeral procession of 18-year-old Sam Stafford, who was killed in the firing, took place on Friday and was attended by hundreds of angry and distraught mourners who shouted “Long live Assam” in Dispur, the state capital adjoining Guwahati.

“We were watching news all day on TV about the protests when my nephew left home in the evening. We asked him not to go but he went with his friends,” the student’s aunt Julie Stafford told AFP.

Authorities announced a curfew in place in Guwahati would be lifted from 9am to 4pm Saturday.

But some protest groups said they planned to defy the curfew with more demonstrations planned for the afternoon and evening.

Samujjal Bhattacharya from the All Assam Students Union, which has been at the forefront of the protests, told AFP the group would continue its fight against the new law “in the streets and in the court”.

‘Exercise caution’ 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe postponed a summit that had reportedly been due to be held in Guwahati from Sunday, and the United States and Britain warned their nationals to “exercise caution” if travelling to the wider northeast region.

Other smaller protests against the new law erupted elsewhere around India Friday, with riot police clashing with hundreds of mostly student protestors in New Delhi and demonstrators setting fire to buildings at a railway station in West Bengal, officials said.

Rallies were also held in Kerala and Karnataka in the south as well as in Modi’s home state Gujarat in the west.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) — approved this week — allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, but not Muslims.

For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights organisations, it is part of Modi’s “Hindutva” Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims.

Modi denies this and says that Muslims from the three countries are not covered by the legislation because they have no need of India’s protection.

The passage of the bill sparked angry scenes in both houses of parliament this week, with one lawmaker likening it to anti-Jewish legislation by the Nazis in 1930s Germany.

The chief ministers of several Indian states — West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — have said they will not implement the law.

AFP

Two Killed As Indian Police Fire At Protesters

Protesters from northeast India residing in the capital city shout slogans against the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB), during a protest in New Delhi on December 11, 2019. 
Money SHARMA / AFP

 

Two people were killed and several wounded Thursday when police in northeast India opened fire on a large crowd demonstrating against the country’s new citizenship bill.

Federal authorities deployed thousands of paramilitaries and blocked mobile internet access in the region, while local police who joined them in opposing protesters defying a curfew in Guwahati, in Assam state, opened fire both blank and live rounds.

India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), passed by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

The two demonstrators killed were among a large group being treated for various wounds at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, told AFP.

“A few of those people were brought in with bullet injuries. Two of those 21 people have died,” said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at the hospital.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others in India, the new law is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, something he denies.

But many in India’s far-flung northeast object because they fear the legislation, which prompted angry exchanges in parliament this week, will give citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

Five thousand paramilitary troops were deployed in Guwahati, while many roads and highways were blocked to prevent the spread of protests.

Officials said 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the demonstrations in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas and charging the crowds with wooded staffs.

Guwahati’s top police officer Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced over the outbreak of violence, authorities said.

All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled. Several cricket and football matches scheduled to take place in Assam were also called off amid the curfew.

Without citing the unrest, Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan postponed his Friday visit to northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, his spokesman Sharif Mahmud Apu told AFP.

“He will visit Meghalaya at a later time,” Apu said, without giving a reason.

Modi sought to calm the situation in a series of tweets that many in the region could not read because mobile internet was mostly blocked.

“I appeal to the northeast, to Assam and every other state — every community there — to assure that their culture, traditions and language will keep getting the respect and support,” he said at a rally at eastern Jharkhand state.

‘Fear-mongering and bigotry’ 

“Assam is not a dustbin so that central government will keep on dumping whoever they want in Assam,” Assamese film actress Barsha Rani Bishaya said in Guwahati at a meeting of film and student bodies.

“People of Assam have woke up… this time and they will not accept the CAB.”

Several leaders from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam have also resigned in opposition to the legislation.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled a trip to New Delhi hours before he was due to arrive Thursday, citing domestic engagements.

He had on Wednesday pushed back against the Indian government’s claims the legislation was meant to help those persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, telling local media his country did not oppress minorities.

It is not yet clear if the legislation, after being signed off by the president, would survive a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Indian Union Muslim League filed a petition in the top court, with the political party’s leader saying it was against the basic principles of the country’s constitution.

“The constitution says there will be no differentiation based on caste, religion or anything. Here, the citizenship is being given on the basis of religion,” P.K. Kunhalikutty told AFP.

“The CAB… won’t stand in front of the law.”

The petition states that they “do not have any grievances in granting citizenship to migrants but the petitioners grievances is directed against discrimination and unreasonable classification based on religion.”

Amnesty International said the law was “bigoted” and called for it to be immediately repealed.

“In a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear mongering and bigotry,” the global rights groups said in a statement Wednesday.

“They also run absolutely foul of India’s international obligations.”

India’s Top Court To Probe Police Killings Of Rape-Murder Suspects

School students hold placards to celebrate after police personnel shot dead four detained gang-rape and murder suspects in Shadnagar near Hyderabad, during a demonstration in Siliguri on December 6, 2019.  DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP

 

India’s top court on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the police shootings of four rape-murder suspects, as speculation grew that four other men convicted of the infamous 2012 Delhi bus gang-rape would be executed soon.

The men were killed in what police claimed was a “shootout” last week, raising fresh concerns about the alleged use of extrajudicial killings by Indian authorities.

The accused had been re-enacting their alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in the southern city of Hyderabad in late November.

A former Supreme Court judge was appointed to head the inquiry, alongside a retired High Court judge and a former head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s equivalent to the FBI.

The probe was tasked by the court to complete its investigation in six months.

The rape and murder of the young woman sparked widespread demonstrations and calls for swift and tough justice, with people taking to the streets and cheering after the men were shot dead.

The huge public outcry recalled the rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, where nationwide protests also broke out against the high levels of sexual violence and India’s broken criminal justice system.

There has been increased speculation in local media that the men convicted of the Delhi bus assault would be hanged as soon as Monday, the anniversary of the attack.

Neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state has been asked to provide the jail with two hangmen on short notice, the Press Trust of India reported.