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India: 7 killed during protests over citizenship law, which discriminates against Muslims

25th Feb 2020
India: 7 killed during protests over citizenship law, which discriminates against Muslims

By Cheena Kapoor


NEW DELHI, India (AA): A police officer and six civilians were killed, 150 injured,including 48 policement, in the Indian capital Monday as clashes between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters turned violent on the second day of demonstrations.

The violence began on Sunday when Kapil Mishra, a leader of the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who had given an open call for violence during protests, warned police to clear the protests’ site ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s official visit.

Protesters threw stones at each other across multiple locations in northeast Delhi, one of the 11 administrative districts of the city, and set vehicles and shops ablaze.

The new law guarantees Indian citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities escaping persecution in three neighboring countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Activists and opposition politicians have described the legislation as divisive, discriminatory and against Muslims as well as the country’s secular constitution.

Mohammad Furkan’s brother Mohammad Imran still cannot believe he is gone. The brothers, both in the handicrafts business, were close. The family lives in Kardampuri in the city’s northeast, close to the Jaffrabad bridge where the protests intensified.

“I went to meet him around 2.30 pm. He was at home,” Imran, 37, told Indian TV NDTV.

Since the markets had shut due to the protests, Furkan, 32, left home to arrange food for his children.

“Someone called and told me your brother has been shot in the foot. I couldn’t believe it. Then I called and he did not pick up the phone. That’s when I got worried,” Imran told NDTV.

Suddenly, there were half a dozen calls to Imran, telling him that his brother had been shot and had been taken to GTB hospital.

Imran said: “I rushed to the hospital. But my brother was dead. I pleaded with the doctors to save him, asked them whether there was any chance he could be taken to some other hospital and saved. They told me there was no chance.”

His voice broke. “My world is shattered. Nothing is left…He has small children, a son and a daughter,” Imran wept.

The policeman, identified as Ratan Lal, was tasked in the area where the violence peaked Monday morning.

Amit Verma, East Delhi’s deputy commissioner of police, also suffered head and hand injuries, and is being treated at a nearby hospital.

The civilians have not been identified yet. Another 45 civilians are being treated at hospitals in Delhi, including six police officers.

Section 144, which prohibits mass public gatherings, has been imposed in Delhi, hours before Trump’s arrival in the city.

On the first day of his trip to India, US President Trump visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, a 17th century Mughal era mausoleum. Indian Government cleared the area of monkeys before his visit. He also addressed a huge crowd at a cricket stadium in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Premier Narendra Modi’s home state.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla convened an urgent meeting as authorities said they were monitoring the situation closely.

“We are monitoring the situation. Have instructed the police to ensure that law and order are maintained in North East Delhi… I urge everyone to exercise restraint for maintenance of peace and harmony,” said Anil Baijal, lieutenant governor in Delhi.

Following the constable’s death, Mishra, who had given an open call for violence, wrote on Twitter that “violence is not the way to reach a resolution.”

Locals allege that protesters supporting the Citizenship law arrived at the site soon after Mishra’s ultimatum, and started pelting stones while chanting “Jai Shree Ram” [Hail Lord Ram], a chant synonymous with the BJP. The anti-citizenship law protesters pelted stones in response, leading the police to use tear gas.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged the capital’s governor Baijal and Home Minister Amit Shah to restore law and order.

“Very distressing news regarding disturbance of peace and harmony in parts of Delhi coming in. I sincerely urge Hon’ble LG n Hon’ble Union Home Minister to restore law and order n ensure that peace and harmony are maintained. Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations,” Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.

His Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) clinched 62 of the 70 seats in this month’s state elections, the ruling party’s first electoral test since the anti-government protests erupted last December. However, it is the central government of the BJP which is responsible for the police in Delhi.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo: Anti Citizenship law protesters face police at Jafrabad in Delhi, India on February 24, 2020. Photographer:  Imtiyaz Khan/AA]

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