The protests against the amendments to the Citizenship Act spread from the North East to several parts of India on Friday.
While Assam, which was the epicentre of the protests over the past few days, was largely peaceful, violence was reported in Meghalaya and Delhi. Students of the Jamia Millia University were baton-charged by the Delhi Police during a march, while more than 100 people were detained in Tamil Nadu’s Salem and Chennai cities. Thousands of protestors marched towards the Raj Bhavan in Shillong in the afternoon, while in Guwahati, Assam, a 10-hour fast was held as form of a protest.
The contentious amendments will allow citizenship to persecuted people of six communities – but not Muslims – from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, provided they have resided in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. The amendments were approved by both Houses of Parliament this week and were signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday night.
Two people were killed in Assam on Thursday as demands to withdraw the changes to the 1955 law were raised. The widespread fear in the North East is that populations defined as indigenous to the region will be culturally and physically overrun by migrants as a result of these changes.
Students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and the police clashed in Delhi. At least 50 people were detained after the protests turned violent. Officials have also banned large gatherings in the area.
Hundreds of students had gathered for a march to Parliament House from the university campus to voice their opposition to the legislation. Visuals showed police used tear gas and batons to disperse the students. Reports said a few protestors were injured in the clash.
The students alleged that the police baton-charged them while they were marching peacefully, but the police claimed the protestors attacked them first. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation closed the Patel Chowk and Janpath stations for a brief period of time due to protests. They were opened about an hour later.
In Shillong, at least 20 people were reportedly injured following violent clashes. The Meghalaya Police used tear gas shells and baton-charged protestors in front of the Raj Bhavan in Shillong. Thousands of protestors had marched towards the Raj Bhavan earlier in the day.
Videos posted on social media showed thousands of people marching while shouting slogans against the law. Vehicles were set ablaze. Video footage also showed injured protestors being taken to hospitals. Internet and SMS services in the city will be blocked till Saturday night.
Crowds gathered in huge numbers in Bihar’s Gaya and Patna cities to protest against the amendments. Bihar’s Opposition the Rashtriya Janata Dal led protests in some places. Janata Dal (United) MLC Gulam Rasool Balyawi also took part in a protest in Patna, according to ANI.
In West Bengal, thousands of protestors blocked National Highway 6 at Uluberia in Howrah district from Friday afternoon. The protestors also set tyres on fire and vandalised railway stations and trains in Murshidabad. They set the Beldanga station in Murshidabad on fire and pelted stones on an ambulance, according to some videos on social media.
“The protesters all of a sudden entered the railway station complex and set the platform, two-three buildings and railway offices on fire. When RPF personnel tried to stop them, they were brutally beaten up,” a senior RPF official told PTI.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam youth wing leader Udhayanidhi Stalin was among several party workers detained after they tried to stage a road blockade in Chennai on Friday. Stalin said the amendments were against minorities and Sri Lankan Tamils. More than 100 people were reportedly detained in Salem following protests.
Members of the DMK tore up copies of the law in Chennai, and some students from the city’s New College in Chennai also staged protests.
A protest march was also held on Marine Drive in Mumbai. Videos on Twitter showed the police detained a few people from the protest.
Protests were reported from several other parts of the country such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Amroha in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Goa.