Indian police fire blanks in fresh citizenship bill demos

AFP , Thursday 12 Dec 2019

Police try to remove road blocks and douse fire set by protestors in Gauhati, India, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP)

Indian police fired blanks on Thursday as thousands of protesters ignored a curfew in the north-east of the country, in a fresh day of demonstrations against contentious new citizenship legislation.

Officials said 20-30 people have been hurt in the protests in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas. Several thousand additional troops have been deployed in the region

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to calm the situations in a series of tweets that many in the region could however not read because mobile internet was snapped in numerous areas.

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

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

Many in India's far-flung north-east object 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, referring to the biggest state in the north-east.

A nighttime curfew was imposed but ignored in many parts of Assam while mobile internet was snapped there and in other areas. All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled.

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