World

Indian police fire blanks to curb protests over citizenship law

GUWAHATI, INDIA: Violent mobs in India's northeastern state of Assam torched buildings and clashed with police yesterday, leaving two dead and 11 with bullet wounds, as protests grew over a new citizenship law for non-Muslim minorities from some neighbouring countries.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, passed by the upper house on Wednesday, allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others, this is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India's 200 million Muslims, something he denies.

Many in India's far-flung north-east object because they fear that the legislation, which prompted angry exchanges in parliament this week, will give citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

Police in Assam's main city of Guwahati fired bullets and tear gas as groups of protesters, some numbering several hundred, demonstrated in the streets, defying a curfew imposed on Wednesday.

Mr Ramen Talukdar, superintendent of Gauhati Medical College Hospital, said two people had died from gunshot wounds and 11 others were injured, also with bullet wounds.

The turmoil in Assam comes days ahead of a summit Mr Modi plans to host there for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of his campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India's diversity.

Mr Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for India's Foreign Ministry, told reporters that he had no update on whether the summit would go ahead as planned or be held elsewhere. - REUTERS

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