Police and protesters clash in Indian capital over citizenship law
Police fired shots in the air and volleys of tear gas to push back thousands of demonstrators in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday as protests raged against a new citizenship law that has angered the country’s Muslims.
The situation spiraled out of control after demonstrators threw stones at policemen who were holding them at a barricade, police officer Rajendra Prasad Meena said.
In another demonstration in West Bengal state, protesters opposing the new laws hurled a homemade bomb at policemen, injuring three of them.
The new Citizenship Amendment Act makes it easier for non-Muslims from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to gain Indian citizenship.
Critics say it weakens India’s secular foundations since it does not apply to Muslims, and fear it is part of a Hindu nationalist plan to marginalize the country’s own Muslims.
Despite days of violent demonstrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government dug in its heels on Tuesday.
“Both my government and I are firm like a rock that we will not budge or go back on the citizenship protests,” Home Minister Amit Shah told the Times Network.
In the clashes in Delhi’s Seelampur area, police fired shots in the air and lobbed more than 60 rounds of tear gas at protesters, some with their faces covered, who threw bricks, stones and bottles at police.
About 10 people, including policemen, had been brought in into the Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital with injuries, a hospital official said.
A protestor who gave his name as Sahil said the new law must be withdrawn.
“It is against the constitution,” he said, holding up a poster as the crowd began to disperse.
Mohammad Daud, the imam at a local mosque who helped calm the confrontation, said it began as a protest against the new citizenship law.
“We should protest against it, and we will protest against it. Neither is this a fight against the police, or a Hindu-Muslim issue. We only have a problem with the government,” Daud said.