Protests in India over citizenship law turn deadly | News | DW | 15.12.2019
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Protests in India over citizenship law turn deadly

Emotions in India are running high with many angry over a controversial bill passed by the Indian government. Police reportedly killed several demonstrators in Assam state, and people torched cars and staged protests.

Police on Sunday struggled to bring an end to days of deadly protests amid rising tensions in India's ethnically diverse northeast. The violence stems from a controversial citizenship bill that was passed on Wednesday.

In Assam state's biggest city, Guwahati, around 5,000 people took to the streets Sunday in a fresh demonstration, singing, chanting and carrying banners reading "long live Assam." Security was high, with police and soldiers patrolling the streets in vehicles.

The Sunday protest came as officials confirmed that six people had died in the violence in Assam state so far, according to AFP news agency, citing officials. Police shot and killed four protesters, while another person was killed after the shop he was sleeping in was set on fire. One person died after being beaten up during a protest.

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Oil and gas production in Assam state was hit hard by curfews, but the government decided to relax these on Sunday and some shops reopened.

In West Bengal state, protests stretched into a third day on Sunday. Demonstrators set fire to tires, staged sit-ins on highways and railway tracks, and torched trains and buses. Riot police were brought in to disperse protesters, and train services were suspended in some parts of the east.

West Bengal's chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, decided to suspend internet services in several districts. An internet ban was also set to continue in Assam until Monday.

Why are the protests happening?

The Indian parliament passed a bill on Wednesday that would make it easier for minority religious groups from neighboring Muslim states to apply for citizenship. Muslims themselves would be excluded from the bill — a controversial decision by a Hindu-nationalist government in a nation that has long had simmering disputes between Hindus and Muslims.

How have politicians reacted?

Speaking Sunday at a rally in the eastern Jharkhand state, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah called for calm and said, "Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from northeast will remain intact," the Indian media outlet News18 reported.

However, several rights groups and an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Asom Gana Parishad, which initially supported the bill, say they plan to challenge the law in the Supreme Court.

kmm/cmb (AFP/AP)

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