1 dead in India as protests escalate over citizenship law

GUWAHATI: A man was killed in clashes with police in India’s northeast on Thursday, amid violent protests over a new federal law that would make it easier for non-Muslim minorities from some neighbouring countries to seek Indian citizenship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has said the Citizenship Amendment Bill, approved by parliament on Wednesday, was meant to protect minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But thousands of protesters in the state of Assam, which shares a border with Bangladesh, say the measure would open the region to a flood of foreign migrants. Others said the bigger problem with the new law was that it undermined India’s secular constitution by not offering protection to Muslims.
Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati fired bullets and tear gas against groups of protesters, some numbering several hundred, who were demonstrating in the streets, defying a curfew imposed on Wednesday.
Ramen Talukdar, superintendent of Gauhati Medical College Hospital, said one person had been killed by a gunshot and four others sustained bullet wounds.
In Chabua, a town bordering an Indian air force base, protesters had torched government property, including a post office, a local police official said. A mob had also set alight the house of local lawmaker Binod Hazarika, from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“They torched it and finished it,” the police official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. “The situation is very bad here.”
Hostility to illegal migrants has simmered in tea-growing Assam for decades.
The citizenship amendment law grants Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.
Members of other faiths listed in the law, by contrast, have a clear path to citizenship. — Reuters