Tuesday, 24 December 2019 05:31

India's Main Opposition Protests New Law

Nearly 2,000 people took to the streets of India's capital city Monday in a silent protest organized by opposition parties against the controversial citizenship bill that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi led protests in New Delhi outside the Raj Ghat, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.

The new law allows for Hindus, Christians, and other religious minorities who are in India illegally to become citizens, if they can prove they were persecuted because of their religion in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The new law, however, does not apply to Muslims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the law Sunday at a rally of his supporters, saying, "Muslims who are sons of the soil and whose ancestors are the children of mother India need not to worry."

Also on Monday, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost parliamentary seats from the northern state of Jharkhand as the state voted in local elections amid unrest throughout the country.

At least 23 people have been killed in nearly two weeks of demonstrations and violence after India's parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act earlier this month.

The protests that began on predominantly Muslim university campuses have widened as ordinary citizens and academics join with students.

While the immediate spark for the public fury is the citizenship law, anger is also growing for what is being decried as an attempt by Modi's government to control dissent by preventing people from staging demonstrations.

Since the protests escalated, authorities have imposed a restrictive rule known as Section 144 in several parts of the country. It prohibits more than four people from gathering at one place, closed metro stations in the capital to prevent people from mobilizing, and shut down the internet and text messaging services in many places.


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