Fresh protests rocked India on Monday as anger grew over new citizenship legislation slammed as anti-Muslim, with six people dead in the northeast and up to 100 reported injured in New Delhi.
The law fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring countries, but critics allege it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise the 200 million Indians who follow Islam.
In the country’s northeast, however, even allowing non-Muslims citizenship is opposed by many locals who fear their culture is threatened by Bengali-speaking Hindus.
Modi, who insists he is not anti-Muslim, said the citizenship law is “1,000 per cent correct” and that Muslims from the three countries are not covered because they have no need of India’s protection.
Rahul Gandhi, former opposition Congress chief, tweeted on Monday that the law and a mooted nationwide register of citizens also seen as anti-Muslim were “weapons of mass polarisation unleashed by fascists”.
On Sunday night in Delhi, police with batons fired tear gas and charged protesting students before storming a university.
On Monday fresh protests took place in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Lucknow, where hundreds of students most of them Muslims, television pictures indicated tried to storm a police station, hurling volleys of stones at officers cowering behind a wall.
In the east in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal, thousands gathered for a major demonstration called by state premier Mamata Banerjee, a firebrand opponent of Modi.
In recent days empty trains were torched there and on Monday internet access remained suspended.
In Kerala in the south, another state whose government refuses to implement the citizenship law, several hundred people also protested. Kerala’s finance minister Thomas Isaac tweeted: “United action of all secular force is the need of the hour.”