December 17, 2019 / 9:31 AM / a month ago

Clashes erupt in Indian capital over citizenship law

NEW DELHI, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Clashes erupted in New Delhi on Tuesday between thousands of protesters and police, the latest violence in a week of opposition to a new law that blocks Muslims from neighbouring countries gaining citizenship.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the new law will save religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by offering them a path to Indian citizenship.

But the law does not apply to Muslims, which critics say weakens India’s secular foundations.

Police fired tear gas in the New Seelampur part of the capital to push back protesters swarming to barricades and throwing stones. At least two police were injured, a Reuters witness said.

“It was as a peaceful protest against the citizenship bill ... but got out of hand,” resident Azib Aman said.

Cars were damaged and roads strewn with rocks while small fires on the road sent smoke into the air.

There have been growing questions about the stance of the government, led by Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party, towards India’s Muslims, who make up 14 percent of the population.

The citizenship law follows the revocation of the special status of the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, and a court ruling clearing the way for the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque razed by Hindu zealots.

Anger with the government was stoked this week by allegations of police brutality at Jamia Millia Islamia university on Sunday, when officers entered the campus and fired tear gas to break up a protest.

At least 100 people were wounded.

Modi told a campaign rally on Tuesday that his political rivals were trying to mislead students and others to stir up protests.

“This is guerrilla politics, they should stop doing this.” (Writing by Sanjeev Miglani Editing by Robert Birsel)

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