Citizenship Amendment Bill
3 killed in India as protests escalate
Published : Thursday, 12 December, 2019 at 9:40 PM Count : 202
At least three people were killed in clashes with police in India's northeast on Thursday, amid violent protests over a new federal law that would make it easier for non-Muslim minorities from some neighbouring countries to seek Indian citizenship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has said the Citizenship Amendment Bill, approved by parliament on Wednesday, was meant to protect minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But thousands of protesters in the state of Assam, which shares a border with Bangladesh, say the measure would open the region to a flood of foreign migrants. Others said the bigger problem with the new law was that it undermined India's secular constitution by not offering protection to Muslims.
Police in Assam's main city of Guwahati fired bullets and tear gas against groups of protesters, some numbering several hundred, who were demonstrating in the streets, defying a curfew imposed on Wednesday.
In Chabua, a town bordering an Indian air force base, protesters had torched government property, including a post office, a local police official said.
A mob had also set alight the house of local lawmaker Binod Hazarika, from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"They torched it and finished it," the police official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. "The situation is very bad here."
Hostility to illegal migrants has simmered in tea-growing Assam for decades.
The citizenship amendment law grants Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.
Protesters vandalized four railway stations in Assam and tried to set fire to them, a railway spokesman said. Train services were suspended, stranding scores of passengers. IndiGo said it had cancelled flights because of the unrest.
"This is a spontaneous public outburst," said Nehal Jain, a masters student in communications in Guwahati. "First they tell us there are too many illegal immigrants and we need to get rid of them. Then they bring in this law that would allow citizenship to immigrants," she said.