Six dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

Six dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

Angry protesters in northeast India vowed Sunday to keep demonstrating against a contentious citizenship law as the death toll from bloody clashes opposing the bill rose to six.

Tension remained high at the epicentre of the unrest in Assam state’s biggest city, Guwahati, with troops patrolling the streets amid tight security.

In Assam, four people died after being shot by police, while another was killed when a shop he was sleeping in was set on fire and a sixth after he was beaten up during a protest, officials said.

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Some 5,000 people took part in a fresh demonstration in the city on Sunday, with hundreds of police watching as they sang, chanted and carried banners with the words “long live Assam”.

The legislation, passed by the national parliament on Wednesday, allows New Delhi to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries on or before December 31, 2014 — but not if they are Muslim.

Besides stoking concern among Muslims, the proposed changes have also led to demonstrations by residents unhappy about an influx of Hindus from neighbouring Bangladesh who stand to gain citizenship.

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“Assam will continue to protest. India is a democracy and the government has to listen to us,” said Karan Mili, a colleague of one of the victims, 25-year-old Iswor Nayak, who died Sunday.

“We don’t want violence but protests will continue… Assamese will not stop until government revokes the law,” another demonstrator, Pratima Sharma, told AFP.

Officials said oil and gas production in the state were hit by the curfew, although the restrictions were eased during the day on Sunday with some shops opening.

In West Bengal state, where protests stretched into a third day, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — who has spoken out against the national government’s push for the law — suspended internet services in several districts.

Demonstrators set fire to tyres, staged sit-ins on highways and railway tracks, and torched trains and buses, with riot police brought in to disperse protesters and train services suspended in some parts of the east.

In India’s capital New Delhi, video shared on social media showed a bus on fire and police appearing to fire tear gas at protesters.

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