Tensions over a controversial citizenship bill passed by Parliament last week escalated across the country Monday with more university students taking part in the protests.

They protested on several campuses including Mumbai’s Indian Institute of Technology and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on Sunday and Monday. More demonstrations were planned at Bombay University and in the southern city of Bengaluru later in the day.

“The country is burning, the government has made a mockery of the constitution,” said D. Raja, a general secretary of the Communist Party of India.

Under the new bill, religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who settled in India before 2015 will have the right to claim Indian citizenship on the basis that they were persecuted in those countries.

It entitles non-Muslim migrants from those three Muslim-majority countries to citizenship if they are facing religious persecution.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party denies any religious bias or pushing a partisan agenda.

Read more: Opinion: India’s new citizenship act is unconstitutional 

Student protests nationwide

Students at the Aligarh Muslim University in the state of Uttar Pradesh marched in solidarity with New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university after officers entered their campus on Sunday, firing tear gas to break up a protest, according to Indian media company NDTV. Around 100 people were injured in the clashes there. 

Police put an end to the march at Aligarh Muslim University after students clashed with authorities.

Students at the Banaras Hindu University in Uttar Pradesh also rallied against the bill and in the country’s southern city of Hyderbad in Telangana state, students protested at the Maulana Azad Urdu University.

In the country’s capital,  hundreds gathered outside the police headquarters on Sunday to protest against alleged police brutality and the detention of students. 

Violence was at its peak in the northeastern state of Assam, an ethnically diverse region where at least two people were killed in the violent clashes with police during protests. Mobs had set buildings alight as well as train stations. 

Protesters in Assam expressed anger that the bill might enable thousands of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country, to become lawful citizens. 

Some Bollywood celebrities like actress Konkona Sen Sharma, and directors Mahesh Bhatt and Anubhav Sinha, also spoke against police on Twitter and encouraged people to speak up. 

mvb/ng (Reuters, AFP)

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