From Delhi to Varanasi to Mangaluru to Mumbai, cities across India are witnessing massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Friday saw violent clashes with Uttar Pradesh reporting maximum deaths. So far, 17 people have died in protests, which include five in Assam also. To tackle the situation, state governments have imposed Section 144 in various cities. Mobile internet services remain suspended in as many as 20 cities of Uttar Pradesh and parts of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Karnataka. According to latest reports, thousands of people have been detained in connection with the violent protests. Meanwhile, it seems that the Narendra Modi government is trying to allay the fears of the minorities. Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi reportedly said that there was no plan of pan-India NRC by the government. “NRC, if it happens…no government is bringing it surreptitiously,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Uttar Pradesh was the worst-hit state in terms of violence over the citizenship law. Three people died in Meerut, two in Bijnor, one each in Varanasi, Ferozabad, Sambhal and Kanpur. A day earlier on Thursday, three people died in Lucknow and Karnataka’s Mangaluru. If the number of casualties in Assam protests is also included, the national tally of protesters dying in the citizenship stir stands at 17 as of Saturday. Section 144 continues to be in force in parts of Delhi, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
The national capital on Friday witnessed a wave of fresh protests with a car being set on fire during one of the several demonstrations by people in their thousands who took to the streets shouting anti-government slogans over the contentious citizenship law. The epicentre of the protest was the locality around the Jama Masjid where large number of people held a massive protest after the Friday prayers at the mosque defying prohibitory orders and police clampdown.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad, holding up a copy of the Constitution, was leading the protesters in a march from Jama Masjid area to Jantar Mantar but they were stopped at the Delhi Gate locality where large number of barricades were erected. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, accompanied by her daughter Miraya, joined protesters at the India gate lawns in the evening. This is the second time the Congress leader protested at the India Gate this week against the new law.
Violence broke out in the Delhi Gate area when a group of demonstrators resorted to stone-pelting after police tried to forcefully evict them. In the melee, one car was set on fire and several others were damaged.
The agitation erupted after the Narendra Modi government passed the contentious legislation in Parliament on December 11. Two days later, President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent and making it a law on December 13. The Citizenship Act grants Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan in half the time of other groups if they can argue they suffered religious discrimination in their country of origin.