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Update: Citizens Act Continues to Spark Violent Protests in India

A controversial new citizenship law in India offering citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, incited protests across the country starting December 19 and continuing today.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) offers amnesty only to non-Muslim illegal immigrants, generating fear from Muslim citizens that they could become stateless. Critics also stated that the exclusionary law violated the country’s secular constitution. In response, tens of thousands gathered to protest across India, including students, civil society groups, political parties, activists, and ordinary citizens, defying a law that prohibits more than four people from gathering together in one place. Messages on Instagram and Twitter urged people to turn out and protest peacefully, yet some demonstrations erupted into violence. In the city of Mangalore, two people died after police officers fired on demonstrators who were allegedly trying to set fire to a police station. Another man died in the city of Lucknow, when violent clashes between the police and protesters resulted in vehicles being set on fire.

Thousands of activists were detained during the protests, and a protest ban was imposed in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and parts of the capital Delhi. Ramachandra Guha, a well-known historian and critic of the government, was also briefly detained in the southern city of Bangalore, as was political activist Yogendra Yadav in Delhi. When interviewed by BBC’s Newshour, Mr. Guha stated he had been arrested with hundreds of others from various different backgrounds, “which clearly shows that a large section of Indians are actually opposed to this discriminatory legislation.” According to BBC News, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dismissed protestors’ concerns, responding that the opposition was “spreading lies and rumors,” “instigating violence”, and  “creating an atmosphere of illusion and falsehood.”

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Written by Tyrell Little

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