Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained silence on Thursday’s nationwide demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which culminated in three deaths and the detention of thousands of protestors across multiple Indian cities.
As protests raged in the country, Modi met Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa and held talks on deepening bilateral cooperation. He also attended the meeting of the National Committee for Commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and principles give strength to the entire world,” Modi tweeted in the evening. “For us, Gandhi-150 is not merely a year long celebration. It inspires us to keep furthering the noble tenets of Gandhian philosophy, which have the potential to empower millions.”
The tweet came on a day when the police in two BJP-ruled states and in Delhi, where the police reports to the Union Home Ministry, imposed sweeping restrictions on peaceful public meetings. This was done under a colonial-era law used against Gandhi and other leaders of India’s freedom struggle.
Most ministers in Modi’s cabinet avoided making any statements on the protests.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who spearheaded the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament, attended the 56th Anniversary Parade of the Sashastra Seema Bal.
He tweeted: “SSB is playing an important role in curbing anti-national activities, cross border terrorism, drugs, fake currency etc and protecting our borders & maintaining good relations with friendly neighbouring countries.” Shah also attended the second meeting of the Gandhi-related national committee.
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman met Karnataka Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, but said nothing about the protests. She also held the sixth pre-budget consultation with prominent industrialists, the Finance Ministry tweeted. Bommai claimed later in the day that the protests in Mangaluru, in which two people were killed, were organised by people from Kerala.
Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Nitin Gadkari also attended the meeting of the National Committee for Commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. He met former Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar, and launched MG Motors’ Electric Vehicle MG ZS EV.
Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal told people on Twitter about the Kalka-Shimla rail line, which he said is “tirelessly tended by the railway staff to keep the people moving”. However, he also told News18 that the government does not discriminate between religions while providing any services.
A few statements
The first minister to comment in the day was Ravi Shankar Prasad who told News18 that the government was willing to talk to students, but not to “‘tukde tukde’ gang, urban Maoists or any other political party’”.
Later in the day, Union Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh said he had spoken over phone to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath about the violence in Lucknow. “These incidents are very sad and unfortunate,” he tweeted. “I appeal to the people to maintain peace. I am returning from Washington to India today.” At least one person died of firearm injuries at a hospital in Lucknow.
NDTV reported that the home ministry held a meeting to review the security situation in the country. It was attended by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy.
Reddy claimed that “everything is peaceful” in India except in Lucknow where there have been violent protests, ANI reported. He also asked political parties not to instigate people in the name of religion. “If you want to protest, please do not create violence and rumours,” he added.
Bharatiya Janata Party Working President Jagat Prakash Nadda, who was a former Union minister, insisted that the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens will be implemented across the country, despite protests, PTI reported. He made the remark after meeting Sikh refugees from Afghanistan in Delhi.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to persecuted minorities of six religions – excluding Islam – from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It has been decried as anti-Muslim, and protestors from North Eastern states have alleged that the Act will erode their ethnic identities.
Deaths, protests, detentions and blockades
Hundreds of protestors were detained across the country on Thursday. The protests, which first began at Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi on Monday, have now spread throughout the country. There were protests in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and many other cities on Thursday.
Two people died in Mangaluru in Karnataka during clashes between the police and the protestors. One person died in Lucknow of firearm injuries, according to PTI. However, Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police OP Singh claimed it is unlikely that the person who died in Lucknow died due to a bullet injury.
Earlier on Thursday, the Delhi Police had detained activists Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Harsh Mander, Left leaders D Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Nilotpal Basu and Brinda Karat, and former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid at different locations in Delhi. Historian Ramchandra Guha was detained in Bengaluru.
In Delhi, prohibitory orders were imposed at the police station areas in Kashmere Gate, Kotwali, and Lahori Gate. The Delhi Police issued an order to block communication of all kinds – voice, SMS and internet – from 9 am to 1 pm in the walled city areas of north and central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and Bawana. Some telecom operators also shut down their services briefly following police advice.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has been closing and reopening metro stations throughout the day, providing continuous updates through Twitter.