Six dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, that seeks to give citizenship to religious minorities persecuted in neighboring Muslim countries, inside the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi, India, December 14, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Six dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

  • In Assam, three people died in hospital after being shot
  • Train services were also suspended in some parts of the east on Sunday after violence in eastern West Bengal state

GUWAHATI: The death toll from violent protests in northeast India against a contentious citizenship law has risen to six, officials said Sunday, as authorities maintained Internet bans and curfews to quell unrest.

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

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

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

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 neighboring countries on or before December 31, 2014 — but not if they are Muslim.

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.

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 tires, 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.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday called again for calm, saying local cultures in northeastern states were not under threat, amid fears the new law will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

“Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from northeast will remain intact,” Shah told a rally in eastern Jharkhand state, News18 television network reported him as saying.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights activists and others in India, the new law is seen as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies the allegation.

Rights groups and a Muslim political party are challenging the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s secular traditions.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally in Assam, which had supported the bill in parliament, told local media Sunday that it now intended to challenge the law in the Supreme Court.


Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

Updated 20 min 26 sec ago

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

  • Ex-president says Taliban offer to reduce violence a ‘major development’

KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged President Ashraf Ghani to drop the pre-condition of cease-fire to begin talks with the Taliban amid high hope that the US and Taliban delegates will sign a deal following more than a year of secret discussions.

Speaking in an interview with BBC local service, Karzai said the government “should not block intra-Afghan dialogue under the pretext of cease-fire.” He said the Taliban offer for reduction in violence as the group says is nearing to ink the deal with American diplomats in Qatar, was a “major development.”

He said Ghani needed to accept the Taliban offer.

Ghani says truce is a must ahead of starting any negotiations with the Taliban calling reduction in violence a general term and arguing that such a call by the Taliban political leaders in Qatar only goes to show that they have control over field commanders back in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say the group will announce truce when the intra-Afghan dialogue begins which will happen after Washington sets timetable for withdrawal of the troops.

Washington at least on one occasion called off the talks with the Taliban in Qatar due to Taliban attacks back in Afghanistan as discussions continued in Qatar despite none of the warring sides having committed to halt offensives during the talks.

Ghani’s government has been sidelined from all rounds of talks between the Taliban delegates and US diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. There has also been rift between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with the president in the National Unity Government, on the pre-condition of cease-fire.

Unlike Ghani, Abdullah is happy with reduction of violence. Talking in a meeting of council of ministers, Abdullah on Monday indirectly said Ghani had taken the peace process in his monopoly.

 “Peace is not one person’s monopoly, one person’s wish — but it is a collective desire, and the people of Afghanistan have the right to take a position regarding the peace process,” said Abdullah.