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.


UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”