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14 killed in protests against citizenship law across India

Police have banned public gatherings in parts of New Delhi and other cities for a third day.

People throw stones on police vehicles during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Ahmadabad, India (Ajit Solanki/AP)
People throw stones on police vehicles during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Ahmadabad, India (Ajit Solanki/AP)

By Ashok Sharma, Associated Press

Police banned public gatherings in parts of the Indian capital and other cities for a third day and cut internet services to try to stop growing protests against a new citizenship law that have left at least 14 people dead and more than 4,000 detained.

Thousands of protesters stood inside and on the steps of New Delhi’s Jama Masijd, one of India’s largest mosques, after Friday afternoon prayers, waving Indian flags and shouting slogans against the government and the citizenship law, which critics say threatens India’s secular democracy in favour of a Hindu state.

Police had banned a proposed march from the mosque to an area near India’s parliament, and a large number of officers were waiting outside the mosque. Late on Friday, police sprayed protesters with a water cannon to keep them from marching towards a monument in central Delhi where protests have been converging, about two miles away.

About 10,000 people protested outside New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, which was the site of weekend clashes in which students accused police of using excessive force that sent dozens to hospital. They collected signatures for a petition demanding the new law be scrapped.

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A bus that was set on fire during protests against India’s new citizenship law in Lucknow, India (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)

Violence erupted in several towns in northern Uttar Pradesh state where protesters set some police posts and vehicles on fire and hurled rocks at security forces. Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse the protesters in Muzzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Firozabad and Gorakhpur.

Police officer Dinesh Rai said two protesters were killed in Meerut, a town in Uttar Pradesh, when shots were fired from a rooftop. He said police did not fire at the protesters and were investigating the deaths.

State police chief OP Singh said more than 100 people had been arrested and 3,305 detained since Thursday.

Eleven deaths have been reported across the country — five in Assam, four in Uttar Pradesh and two in southern Karnataka state. Of the four deaths in Uttar Pradesh state, one occurred on Thursday and three on Friday, Mr Rai said.

Surveillance video seen by the Associated Press shows police entering Highland Hospital in Mangalore, a southern Indian city, on Thursday night and using batons to disperse protesters who had taken shelter inside.

The video shows two policemen trying to kick open a hospital ward door and some people wearing masks running in a hospital corridor. It earlier shows some protesters throwing rocks at police and then barging into the hospital.

Mohammad Abdullah, a hospital employee, said by phone that police entered the hospital and “fired tear gas shells”.

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Protesters defied bans on assembly that authorities imposed to stop widespread demonstrations against a new citizenship law (Rajanish Kakade/AP)

The protests have targeted the new citizenship law, which applies to Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally but can demonstrate religious persecution in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It does not apply to Muslims.

Critics say it is a violation of the country’s secular constitution and the latest effort by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims.

Mr Modi has defended it as a humanitarian measure.

The protests began last week in the north-eastern border state of Assam, the seat of a decades-old movement against migrants, and at predominantly Muslim universities and communities in New Delhi, and now include a broad section of the Indian public nationwide.

A British colonial-era law banning the assembly of more than four people was in place in parts of the Indian capital as well as in several cities in Assam and Uttar Pradesh, where a motorised rickshaw driver was shot dead during a protest in Lucknow.

Authorities erected roadblocks and turned areas around mosques in New Delhi, Lucknow and other Muslim-dominated areas into security fortresses to prevent widespread demonstrations after Friday prayers.

Police temporarily held 1,200 protesters in New Delhi on Thursday and hundreds of others were detained in other cities after they defied bans on assembly. Most protesters were released later in the day.

PA

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