Across India, opposition building against citizenship law

NEW DELHI — Thousands of university students flooded the streets of India’s capital, while a southern state government led a march and demonstrators held a silent protest in the northeast on Monday to protest a new law giving citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India illegally to flee religious persecution in several neighbouring countries.

The protests in New Delhi followed a night of violent clashes between police and demonstrators at Jamia Millia Islamia University. People who student organizers said were not students set three buses on fire and police stormed the university library, firing tear gas at students crouched under desks.

Members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said opposition parties were using the students as pawns.

Modi’s government says the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was approved by Parliament last week, will make India a safe haven for Hindus and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But critics say the legislation, which for the first time conditions Indian citizenship on religion, violates the secular constitution of the world’s largest democracy.

At Jamia Millia Islamia University on Monday, thousands stood outside the locked-down campus. Inside, hundreds of students took part in a peaceful sit-in, holding placards denouncing the injuries of dozens of students the night before.

Mujeeb Ahmad, a 21-year-old Arabic major, returned to campus Monday to join the sit-in and retrieve the book bag he lost fleeing the library, where he had been studying for exams.

“We thought we were safe in the library,” he said, adding that he and others had locked the library doors from the inside. Policemen broke them down, and at least one officer fired tear gas, he said, holding up an empty canister he said he picked up from the library floor.

About 2,000 people including students and families with young children gathered at New Delhi’s iconic India Gate memorial to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act and reports of students demonstrating against the law who were beaten by police at several university campuses. Priyanka Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, participated at a sit-in at India Gate for two hours. Police stood on the sidelines of the demonstration.

The law’s passage has triggered protests across India, but Assam, the centre of a decades-old movement against illegal immigrants, has seen the highest toll.

Assam police officials say officers have fatally shot five protesters in the state capital of Gauhati while attempting to restore order to a city that has been engulfed in demonstrations since last week. About 1,500 people have been arrested for violence including arson and vandalism, police spokesman G.P. Singh said, adding that authorities were reviewing surveillance videos and anticipated making more arrests.

Schools remain closed through Dec. 22, the government has blocked internet service statewide and a curfew has been imposed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Foreign journalists are not permitted to travel to India’s northeastern region, including Assam, without a permit.

Municipal workers were clearing the city of burned tires and other debris on Monday and some businesses had reopened as the All Assam Students Union, which has spearheaded Assam’s anti-immigration movement for decades, led a silent protest. The group and its followers fear an influx of migrants will dilute native Assamese culture and political sway.

The citizenship law follows a contentious citizenship registry process in Assam intended to weed out people who immigrated illegally. Home Minister Amit Shah has pledged to roll it out nationwide, promising to rid India of “infiltrators.”

Nearly 2 million people in Assam were excluded from the list, about half Hindu and half Muslim, and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be considered foreign. India is constructing a detention centre for some of the tens of thousands of people the courts are expected to ultimately determine came to the country illegally.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill could provide protection and a fast track to naturalization for many of the Hindus left off Assam’s citizenship list.

Bangladesh has repeatedly said that it would not accept anyone India determines to be a foreigner, but on Sunday, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said it has asked the Modi government for details on Bangladeshis living illegally in India so that they could be repatriated.

Momen made the comment amid concern that people were being pushed into Bangladesh from the Indian state of West Bengal.

Authorities in Bangladesh say at least 329 people were arrested on charges of trespassing from India last month and failing to prove they are Bangladeshis.

Momen said if they are determined to be non-Bangladeshi they will be sent back to India.

___

Associated Press writers Wasbir Hussain in Gauhati, India, and Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

Emily Schmall And Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spike in bike thefts prompts Red Deer RCMP warning

Nearly a dozen bikes reported stolen in Red Deer in last week

Border rules could prevent Canadian cities from being an NHL playoff hub

Tim Shipton lets out a deep breath. A laugh quickly follows. The… Continue reading

‘Pointing out the obvious:’ Alberta govt stands by energy minister’s comments

EDMONTON — Alberta’s energy minister isn’t backing away from her comments that… Continue reading

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Hong Kong is a train wreck I can’t bear to watch

“We are the meat on the chopping board,” said Martin Lee, founder… Continue reading

Non-binary athletes navigating Canadian sport with little policy help

Playing men’s and women’s hockey can feel like a minefield for Kat… Continue reading

Canadian international Vanessa Gilles signs new deal with France’s Bordeaux

Canadian international defender Vanessa Gilles has signed a contract extension with France’s… Continue reading

‘Kim’s Convenience,’ ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ casts to do online table read

TORONTO — The casts of CBC’s “Kim’s Convenience” and ABC’s “Fresh Off… Continue reading

#MeToo, phase 2: Doc explores heavy burden on women of colour

There’s an elegant, almost poetic silence to one of the most compelling… Continue reading

Calgary bans businesses that claim to change sexual orientation or gender identity

Calgary bans businesses that claim to change sexual orientation or gender identity

Canada outspends Ireland, Norway in new pledging on Venezuelan refugee crisis

Canada outspends Ireland, Norway in new pledging on Venezuelan refugee crisis

‘I can’t live on:’ Daughter of man fatally shot by Regina police seeks answers

‘I can’t live on:’ Daughter of man fatally shot by Regina police seeks answers

Most Read