At least 25 have died in demonstrations and violence after govt passed the law criticised as anti-Muslim
New Delhi, India - Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought on Sunday to reassure India’s Muslims as a wave of deadly protests against a new citizenship law put his nationalist government under pressure like never before.
At least 25 people have died in ten days of demonstrations and violence after Modi’s government passed the law criticised as anti-Muslim. More protests took place on Sunday.
Addressing party supporters in New Delhi - who cried ‘Modi! Modi!’ at the mention of the law - the 69 year old said Muslims ‘don’t need to worry at all’ - provided they are genuine Indians.
‘Muslims who are sons of the soil and whose ancestors are the children of mother India need not to worry’ about the law and his plans to carry out a national register of citizens, Modi told the crowd of thousands.
Accusing the main opposition Congress party of condoning the recent violence by not condemning it, Modi said opponents were ‘spreading rumours that all Muslims will be sent to detention camps’. “There are no detention centres. All these stories about detention centres are lies, lies and lies,” he said.
The protesters have hurled rocks and torched vehicles dur
ing demonstrations, while police actions including the storming of a Delhi university a week ago fuelled anger. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered late on Saturday in the southern city of Hy
derabad, while other protests were held elsewhere.
The law gives religious minority members - Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists - from three neighbouring
Islamic countries an easier path to citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.
Islamic groups, the opposition and others fear this forms part of Modi’s aim to marginalise India’s 200mn Muslims and remould the country as a Hindu nation, something he denies.
Authorities have imposed emergency laws, blocked Internet access - a common tactic in
India - and shut down shops in sensitive areas across the country in an attempt to contain the unrest.
More than 7,500 people have either been detained under emergency laws or arrested for rioting, according to state officials, with 5,000 in Uttar Pradesh state alone where 17 people have been killed. Some 500 people have also been injured in Uttar Pradesh including 263 police, while two people were shot dead in the southern state of Karnataka and six died in Assam in the northeast last week.
In Assam, opponents of the legislation fear it will enable large numbers of Bengali-speaking immigrants, many of whom are Hindu, to settle there. But elsewhere, opponents say the law has made religion a test for citizenship ahead of a nationwide register that Modi wants to carry out by 2024 to remove all ‘infiltrators’.
The US State Department this week urged New Delhi to ‘protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with India’s constitution and democratic values'.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a rally in New Delhi on Sunday
People take part in a demonstration against new citizenship law in Chennai on Sunday