- Since its introduction in December, New Delhi has been the scene of protests against the controversial law, criticized as an "anti-Muslim law."
- The law proposes making it easier for religious minorities born outside of India to gain Indian citizenship, but excludes Muslims.
- The law is part of a broader Hindu nationalist agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
At least 24 people, including one policeman, have died in protests against a Indian citizenship law that have flared up since Monday in New Delhi. Dozens of injured people are still in hospitals. Local authorities expect the death toll to rise further. The riots of recent days are the most violent of recent months.
People protested in the Indian capital against a new citizenship law. The law proposes making it easier for religious minorities born outside of India to gain Indian citizenship, but excludes Muslims. During the protests, riots broke out between Muslim and Hindu groups, with opponents attacking each other with sticks, metal tubes, and stones.
New Delhi has been the scene of protests since the Indian Parliament approved the law in December. Critics describe the law as an “anti-Muslim law.” The renewed riots coincide with President Trump’s first state visit to India.
The so-called Citizenship Amendment Bill makes it easier for illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan, who fled to India before 2015, to get citizenship. The law uses religion as a benchmark: Muslims are not eligible. According to international human rights organizations, the law discriminates on the basis of religion and goes against Indian secular democracy. About 80 percent of the Indian population is Hindu. Muslims are the largest minority in the country.
The law is part of a broader Hindu nationalist agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Muslims in India fear that they might end up losing their nationality if they cannot provide documents that show their origins in India. Prime Minister Modi has emphasized that India’s 200 million Muslims need not “worry” about the citizenship law.
Aside from Muslims seeing the law as being discriminatory, critics opine that the law is also contrary to the secular Constitution of India. They fear that it is a stepping stone for a religious citizenship test. Tens of thousands of people have been protesting against that law for weeks, with some protests turning chaotic. But since Sunday, the protests have turned into the bloodiest religious riots in decades between Hindus and Muslims. The violence mainly takes place in northeastern New Delhi, where many inhabitants are Muslims.
In addition, demonstrators bombarded each other with stones, and they attacked each other with sticks. Mosques, shops and cars have been set on fire. In many instances, police have been forced to fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse the groups.
Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday made an appeal to the protesters in Delhi to remain calm and maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there is calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest,” India’s Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter.
Trump State Visit
The confrontations of the past days also coincided with the state visit to India by the American President, Donald Trump. Despite the ongoing conflict, Trump nonetheless praised India on Monday as a tolerant nation. “India is a country that proudly embraces freedom, liberty, individual rights, the rule of law and the dignity of every human being. Your unity is an inspiration to the world,” Trump said.