Indian police use teargas, heavy wooden sticks to disperse citizenship bill protesters


Thousands of demonstrators ignored a curfew in north-east of India to protest against the contentious citizenship amendment bill, officials said on Thursday.

About 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the protests in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing teargas and charging the crowds with heavy wooden sticks.

Up to 5,000 paramilitary forces were deployed in the city of Guwahati in Assam state, while many roads were blocked to prevent the spread of protests.

All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled. Several cricket and football matches scheduled to take place in Assam were also cancelled.

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sought to calm the situation in a series of tweets that many in the region could not read because mobile internet was blocked.

The citizenship amendment bill, passed by the upper house on Wednesday, allows the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not from Muslims.

The Islamic groups, the opposition, the rights groups and others have said this is part of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, something he denies.

Many in India’s remote north-east object to the bill passage because they fear that the legislation, which prompted angry exchanges in parliament this week, will give citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

“I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of CAB (citizenship amendment bill),” Modi tweeted.

It is not yet clear if the legislation, after being signed off by the president, would survive a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Indian Union Muslim League filed a petition in the top court, the first challenge against the bill, with the political party’s leader saying it was against the basic principles of the country’s constitution.

The petition states that they “do not have any grievances in granting citizenship to migrants but the petitioners grievances are directed against discrimination and unreasonable classification based on religion”. (Source: The Guardian)