Citizenship Amendment Act: PM Modi appeals the public to stay calm as protests grow

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Citizenship Amendment Act

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed for calm, as violent protests against the new law (Citizenship Amendment Act) against illegal immigrants continue for the fifth day.

There are large rallies in the capital Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

At least 50 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters in Delhi.

Protesters are outraged over the law granting citizenship to some non-Muslim immigrants from three Muslim-majority countries.

Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Congress of India, has accused the government of creating an atmosphere of religious tension for political purposes.

The protests began last Thursday in Assam, the northeastern state, before spreading to other parts of northern and eastern India.

The protests began last Thursday in Assam
The protests began last Thursday in Assam

But people are divided on why they took to the streets. Some critics say the law is anti-Muslim, while others – particularly in the border areas – fear large-scale immigration.

The law allows non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to become citizens by illegally entering India.

What did Mr. Modi say?

The PM tried to calm the tensions in a series of tweets as students resumed their protest on Monday.

“No Indian should be concerned about this action. This action is only for those who have been persecuted for years and there is no other place in India,” the PM wrote.

“It is time to preserve peace, unity, and brotherhood.”

Authorities have tried to stave off protests by shutting down Internet services, so it’s not clear how many people saw his tweets in the affected areas.

The Congress has accused the government of declaring war on its own people.

Several lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to intervene, alleging that the authorities attacked the students’ bathrooms, but the chief justice said the court will not take any action until protests stop.

Officials Delhi Police spokesman MS Randhawa denied the allegations leveled against him and said his officers had “exercised maximum restraint”.

The UK, US, and Canada have issued travel warnings to people visiting the northeastern parts of India, telling their citizens to “be careful” if visiting the area.

What’s going on in Delhi?

Monday morning protests resumed at the city’s prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia University in the wake of Sunday’s violent clashes that resulted in the arrest of 35 students.

Many Delhi Metro stations have been closed.

Sunday’s march ended with at least three buses and several motorbikes burning, blocking roads and throwing stones at officers who responded with tear gas.

The university said the police entered the campus without permission and in video footage attacked students and staff. Videos shot by students show police beating students, such as bathrooms and a library, on campus.

Police said they had done “whatever was necessary” to stop the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Vice-Chancellor of University Najma Akhtar condemned the police action on Monday, telling reporters that they will file a court case against the police and demand a high-level inquiry.

Also Read: Time Has Come to Struggle for India, Says Sonia Gandhi

She also denied rumors of student deaths.

Hundreds of people have protested at Jawaharlal Nehru University and other parts of the city, including outside the city police headquarters.

How did Indian officials react?

Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde said the Supreme Court would intervene “only if the condition settled down,” and student protesters “could not take the law into their own hands.”

“There is nothing the court can do right now. Let the riots stop,” he said.

Many on social media have accused the authorities of assaulting students with sticks and tear gas during a peaceful protest.

Police spokesman Mr. Randhawa said students and locals first threw stones at the police, injuring 30 officers.

What is the response in other Indian cities?

In Monday’s footage from the northern city of Lucknow, students at Nadwa University were shown throwing stones at security forces, who retaliated by throwing stones at them.

Students were trapped inside the campus.

Television footage showed officers hitting students with large sticks.

In Kolkata, tens of thousands of people joined the demonstration led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her ruling Trinamool Congress against Citizenship Amendment Act.

Why is the law broken?

The Hindu-nationalist BJP government has argued that the law’s aim is to provide accommodation for those who have fled religious violence.

Critics say that the law is part of the government’s agenda to curb Muslims, which violates the secular principles enshrined in the Constitution.

Earlier this week, the United Nations Office for Human Rights expressed concern that the new law was fundamentally discriminatory.

The government condemned religious bias and said that the new law would not be covered because Muslims were not religious minorities and therefore did not need India’s protection.

Meanwhile, people in Assam are worried about illegally invaded non-Muslim migrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

They argue that outsiders take over their land and jobs – and ultimately dominate their culture and identity.

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