Fresh violence erupts in Delhi over citizenship act


A massive protest has broken out in India’s capital Delhi, as anger at a citizenship law spreads across the country.

Images from the city’s Seelampur area showed stone-throwing crowds facing off against police officers. Police are retaliating with tear gas and batons.

Local reports say several protesters and officers have been injured.

The protest comes days after clashes between police and protesters in Delhi left at least 50 injured.

The new law offers citizenship to non-Muslims from three nearby countries.

Seelampur, in the east of the city, has a large Muslim population. Protesters are claiming that the act will marginalise them.

There are reports of a police station being set on fire and police have said that buses have been vandalised.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a petition against the police action inside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, where they allegedly attacked students inside campus premises, including the library and toilets.

Chief Justice Sharad Bobde said the top court did not have to intervene since it was “a law and order problem”. He also told lawyers to file petitions in trial courts.

More protests have broken out, including at Jamia Millia Islamia.

A student there told the BBC that hundreds of students had joined demonstrations for the third day in a row.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new law was “for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no place to go except India”.

But some say the Citizenship Amendment Act CAA is discriminatory and part of a “Hindu nationalist” agenda to marginalise India’s 200-million Muslim minority.

Others, particularly in border states, fear being “overrun” by new arrivals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Citizenship Amendment Act CAA
The Citizenship Amendment Act CAA offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries.

It amends India’s 64-year-old citizenship law, which currently prohibits illegal migrants from becoming Indian citizens.

It also expedites the path to Indian citizenship for members of six religious minority communities – Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian, if they can prove that they are from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh. They will now only have to live or work in India for six years, instead of 11 years, before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

It also says people holding Overseas Citizen of India OCI cards, an immigration status permitting a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely, can lose their status if they violate local laws for major and minor offences and violations.

Opponents say the law is exclusionary, is part of an agenda to marginalise Muslims, and violates the secular principles enshrined in the constitution. They say faith cannot be made a condition of citizenship.

However, the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, says they are only trying to give sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution.


Nneka Ukachukwu