India protests against ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law. Controversial Indian citizenship law demonstrations in Kolkata have continued into their second day.
Unless they face religious persecution, the new law entitles non-Muslim migrants from three Muslim-majority countries to citizenship.
Protesters blocked motorways on Saturday and attacked trains and stations in the capital of West Bengal.
In Guwahati, in the north-eastern state of Assam, a curfew was also imposed after two people died this week in clashes.
The curfew was extended to 16:00 on Saturday from 09:00 local time (03:30 GMT). Protest groups in Guwahati said on Saturday night they were planning to defy the curfew.
The United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada have issued travel warnings for people visiting the north-east of India, telling their citizens if they are traveling to the region to “exercise caution.”
Demonstrations have broken out throughout India. Hundreds of protesters, mainly students, clashed with riot police in New Delhi on Friday.
Police used tear gas on the demonstrators and arrested more than 40 students, reports Priyanka Dubey from the BBC-adding that the streets of the capital had a tangible sense of anger.
Other, smaller rallies also took place in Kerala and Karnataka’s southern states.
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, opposes the law, claiming she is not going to implement it. She also called for more protests next week to take place.
Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh’s chief ministers have said they’re not going to implement the rule.
Approved this week, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) applies to non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who have been persecuted for their religion.
These include Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, and Parsis as well as Hindus. News report on India protests against ‘anti-Muslim’ citizenship law.
When people from these groups illegally enter India and can prove that they come from one of the three qualifying countries, they can become Indian citizens.
Islamic rights groups across the country and an opposition political party contend that the bill is part of the “Hindutva,” or Hindu nationalism, of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and part of an effort to marginalize Muslims.
Mr. Modi denies this, saying that the new law does not cover Muslims because they are not religious minorities and therefore need no protection from India.
Critics argue that if the law were genuinely aimed at protecting minorities, it would include Muslim religious minorities, for example, Ahmadis in Pakistan, who have faced persecution in their own countries.
Critics also argue that the bill violates universal values enshrined in the constitution, banning all people from religious discrimination.
Some of the protests also include an anti-migrant element.
The BBC’s India correspondent, Soutik Biswas, says that the protests in Assam, in particular, have little to do with the law being viewed as exclusionary or as a threat to secularism, and “more to do with local concerns that’ outsiders’ would overwhelm demographically and culturally.”
In Assam, Prime Minister Modi tried to reassure people by telling them they had “nothing to worry about.”
“The central government and I are fully committed to the constitutional protection of the Assamese people’s political, linguistic, cultural and land rights,”he tweeted on Thursday.
Yet residents are unlikely to have been able to read the email, as the area’s internet and mobile networks have been shut down.
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A political party, the Indian Union Muslim League has appealed to the top court of the country to find the bill unconstitutional.
The Indian Union Muslim League claimed in its petition to the Supreme Court that the bill violated equality clauses, fundamental rights, and the right to life.
More than 700 eminent Indian celebrities have signed a statement “categorically” condemning the bill, including judges, lawyers, academics and actors.
Investigative journalist Rana Ayyub said it sent the wrong message to the BBC.
“Clearly, by telling them that this country is just for Hindus, you’re catering to your Hindu base,”she said.
“When it could accommodate people, the world’s largest democracy had a big heart. Right now, as a small vindictive society, we are going across the world. That’s not what India stood for.”