India protests: At least five dead after police sent in to stop students demonstrating

‘The country is burning, the government has made a mockery of the constitution,’ opposition politician says

Samuel Osborne@SamuelOsborne93
Monday 16 December 2019 10:00
A man runs past a burning bus in New Delhi, India
A man runs past a burning bus in New Delhi, India

At least five people have died as protests over a new citizenship law spread to student campuses across India.

Police fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with batons after entering the Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi on Sunday.

At least 100 people were injured in clashes there, while three buses were set on fire and six police personnel wounded in the melee, Chinmoy Biswal, a top police official, said.

Police also clashed with protesters on the campus of the Aligarh Muslim University in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

As night fell on Sunday, hundreds gathered outside the New Delhi police headquarters to protest against alleged police brutality and the detention of students.

Protesters are demonstrating against a new law, which will give illegal immigrants from religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians that settled in India from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan before 2015 a path to citizenship on the grounds they faced persecution in those countries.

Critics argue the law, which does not give the same provision to Muslims, weakens India’s secular foundations.

Five people have been killed in ongoing protests since the law was passed by parliament on Wednesday.

“The country is burning, the government has made a mockery of the constitution,” said D Raja, a general secretary of the Communist Party of India.

The most violent protests have taken place in the northeastern state of Assam, where mobs torched buildings and train stations.

Police clash with demonstrators in New Delhi

Protests were also held in Mumbai’s Indian Institute of Technology and Tata Institute of Social Sciences overnight and on Monday, with more protests planned at Bombay University and in the southern city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) later in the day.

Student organisers blamed outsiders for the violence.

“We have time and again maintained that our protests are peaceful and non-violent,” they said in a statement. “We stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in the violence.”

Some Bollywood celebrities such as actress Konkona Sen Sharma and directors Mahesh Bhatt and Anubhav Sinha criticised the police on Twitter.

“We are with the students! Shame on you @DelhiPolice,” Sen Sharma tweeted.

Additional reporting by agencies

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