New clashes between police and protesters broke out in New Delhi on Tuesday against a controversial new citizenship law put forward by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In the predominantly Muslim district of Seelampur in the east of the capital, fumes from tear gas launched by the police filled the streets. Demonstrators threw stones at the police to strike back.
This fifth straight day of protest across the country cropped up after Modi’s government enacted a Citizenship Amendment Bill excluding Muslims from future citizenship.
Police crackdowns have been particularly brutal since Sundaywhen thousands of protesters gathered near Jamia Millia Islamia University. More than 200 were injured in clashes.
According to authorities, protesters had torched buses, cars and motorbikes. A witness told AFP police responded with baton charges and tear gas to disperse protesters near the Muslim university.
Following the clashes, official at Alshifa Hospital Inamul Hassan deplored the protesters’ injuries: “Many of them have fractures/ We are running out of plaster of paris for casts.”
Other protests were held today in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in southern India.
“I want to make it clear, nobody is scared. Like people in Hong Kong are protesting, in Chile they are protesting, and they are not scared. We are not scared too.” declared Bhumika Saraswati, a student protester, in New Delhi.
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In the city of Calcutta, more than 20,000 protesters also gathered on Tuesday for a new big parade organised by Mamata Banerjee, a hardline opponent of the government.
Government calling for calm VS petition
Modi has called for calm and claims the legislation is designed to help those who have faced years of persecution and have no other place to go except India.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill’s purpose was to grant citizenship to illegal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — but not if they are Muslim.
Critics fear a weakening in India’s secular foundations. Political analyst Tehseen Poonawalla has filed a petition in the Supreme Court to strike down the act.
He believes that this act is “illegal and unconstitutional”. “It violates article 21, the right to life, and article 14, the right to equality. That’s why it must be struck down by the Supreme Court” Poonawalla told Euronews.
The articles Poonawalla mentions are enscripted in 1950-dated Constituion of India.
Article 21 provides that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty excepta ccording to procedure established by law.”
Article 14 provides for equality before the law: “The States shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
Asked about the petition, Tehseen Poonawalla feels “confident” and believes in the power of this mobilisation: “So many people coming out in the streets, it’s amazing”.