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Renewed clashes between police and protesters after more than a week of unrest triggered by a law seen as anti-Muslim. [Picture: Al Jazeera]
Fresh clashes between the police and demonstrators in India have erupted after more than a week of deadly unrest triggered by a citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim.
The clashes erupted on Friday in Uttar Pradesh state’s capital, Lucknow, when police halted a few hundred people on their way to a planned protest, with security forces firing tear gas and charging with batons, an AFP news agency reporter at the scene said.
Several killed and hundreds arrested as protests against a new ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law continue in cities across India.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 20, 2019
Three protesters were shot dead on Thursday, taking the death toll to nine – six were killed earlier in the northeastern state of Assam – in a wave of anger that is emerging as a major challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The law making it easier for “persecuted” minorities from three neighbouring countries to get citizenship but not if they are Muslims, has stoked fears that Modi wants to remould India as a Hindu nation, which he denies.
Tens of thousands hit the streets nationwide on Thursday, with violence erupting in several places, including Lucknow in the north, Mangalore in the south, and Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
In Mangalore, security forces opened fire on a crowd of around 200 people after they ignored orders to disperse, killing two people, police spokesman Qadir Shah told AFP news agency. Four others were in hospital with gunshot wounds.
“They marched towards the busiest area of Mangalaru. This led to lathi [baton] charge. Then the tear gas was fired. When the protesters still didn’t stop, the police had to open fire,” he said, using an alternative name for the city.
Another protester died of gunshot injuries in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, said a doctor who did not want to be named, with vehicles and a police post set on fire in one district.
Police denied opening fire in the city, which is home to a large Muslim minority, but his father told the Times of India newspaper his son was shot after getting caught in a crowd of protesters while out buying groceries.
Security tightened in North East Delhi; Joint CP Alok Kumar says,”Sufficient force has been deployed including 10 companies of CRPF&RAF in North east district. We’ve held many rounds of meeting with locals & deployed drones, anti-riot gear to deal with any kind of situation” #CAA pic.twitter.com/nfHyXGwXFB
— ANI (@ANI) December 20, 2019
Elsewhere, there were no major incidents although police bundled hundreds of people onto buses in New Delhi and Bengaluru after they defied bans on assembly including a prominent rights activist and an internationally renowned historian.
The protests have in places seen demonstrators hurl rocks at security forces and set fire to vehicles, while alleged police brutality – including at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university and Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh Muslim University on Sunday – has fuelled the anger.
Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha said more protests are expected in capital New Delhi and across India on Friday. “The protests have gone beyond universities,” she said.
Shrestha said women have “ended up becoming the face” of the protests.
“In Aligarh where we were a few days ago, students were really fearful for the lives. What happened was women and mothers came out in full force to face the police,” she said.
The 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.
In Uttar Pradesh – home to over 200 million people – mobile internet and text-messaging services were cut in several areas including in Ghaziabad, which neighbours New Delhi.
Mobile phone services were also briefly suspended on Thursday in parts of New Delhi, and access in parts of northeast India – where the wave of protests began – was only restored on Friday.
In a strongly worded editorial, the Indian Express newspaper on Friday 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.”
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