Dozens injured as activists clash with Delhi police in citizenship law protests

A man walks on a street as a bus is on fire following demonstration against the Indian government's Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in New Delhi on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

Dozens injured as activists clash with Delhi police in citizenship law protests

  • Government says new law will save religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from persecution in neighboring
  • Critics say the law, which does not make the same provision for Muslims, weakens India’s secular foundations

NEW DELHI: More than 100 activists protesting against a new Indian citizenship law were injured in New Delhi on Sunday as they clashed with police who used tear gas and baton charges to disperse demonstrators at a major university.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the new law will save religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from persecution in neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by offering them a path to Indian citizenship. But critics say the law, which does not make the same provision for Muslims, weakens India’s secular foundations.
Sunday was the fifth straight day of protests across the country against the law enacted earlier this month, and the third day running in the capital.

Police tried to contain thousands of protesters, including locals and students, who had gathered near the Jamia Millia Islamia University in southeast Delhi. Clashes erupted and authorities said protesters torched buses, cars and motorbikes.
Officials at two local hospitals said more than 100 people with injuries had been brought in following the clashes.
“Many of them have fracture injuries. We are running out of plaster of paris for casts,” said Inamul Hassan, an official at the Alshifa Hospital located near the university, adding more than 80 people with injuries had been brought to the hospital.
A spokesman for Holy Family Hospital told Reuters’ partner agency ANI that it had treated 26 students suffering from minor injuries.
Police resorted to baton charges and firing tear gas on the protesters to disperse them, according to a Reuters witness. Officers stormed the campus grounds to confront protesters they said fled into the university and threw stones at police.
“About 4000 people were protesting and police did what they did to disperse them when the crowd burnt buses,” said Chinmoy Biswal, a senior police officer in the area. “If it had been a peaceful mob it would have been dispersed peacefully.”
He added that police entered the campus to maintain order and that six officers had been wounded in the clashes.
However some students and officials at Jamia Millia, a storied institution almost 100 years old, decried the police action.
“Police have entered the campus by force, no permission was given. Our staff and students are being beaten up and forced to leave the campus,” Waseem Ahmed Khan, a senior faculty member of the university, told ANI.
Student Tehreem Mirza said students took shelter in the library after police on the campus fired tear gas.
The protests have raged particularly in some eastern states such as Assam, Tripura and West Bengal, where resentment toward Bangladeshi immigrants has persisted for decades.
Authorities have shut down Internet access in several parts of the affected states in an attempt to maintain law and order.
Modi, speaking at a rally in the eastern state of Jharkhand on Sunday, blamed the opposition Congress party and its allies for inciting violence against the citizenship law.
The Congress party in turn slammed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party on Twitter saying, the government “has failed at its duty to maintain peace in the nation.”
Local authorities ordered all schools in southeast Delhi to remain closed on Monday. Jamia Millia university had already said, on Saturday, that it was closing early for the winter break. The Aligarh Muslim University in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh also announced that it was shutting early for the break after student protesters clashed with police on Sunday.
Hundreds of activists gathered outside the New Delhi police headquarters on Sunday night to protest against alleged police brutality and the detention of students.
A lawyer, who is trying to negotiate the release of detained students, said at least 28 were being held at one police station in South Delhi. A police spokesman did not respond to a call, or message asking about the number of people detained.
Meanwhile, protests against the law continued in parts of eastern India. A highway connecting West Bengal and Assam was blocked in several places on Sunday when protesters burnt tires, demanding the law be scrapped. Violence was also reported in Patna, the capital of the eastern state of Bihar.


China building a hospital to treat virus, expands lockdowns

Updated 41 min 59 sec ago

China building a hospital to treat virus, expands lockdowns

  • The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days to treat an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China
  • Hospitals in Wuhan were grappling with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies

BEIJING: China is swiftly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to patients infected with a new virus that has killed 26 people, sickened hundreds and prompted unprecedented lockdowns of cities during the country’s most important holiday.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation was shut down Friday in at least 10 cities with a total of about 33 million people. The cities are Wuhan, where the illness has been concentrated, and nine of its neighbors in central China’s Hubei province.

“To address the insufficiency of existing medical resources,” Wuhan authorities said in a Friday notice, the city is constructing a hospital modeled after the Xiaotangshan SARS hospital in Beijing. The facility will be a prefabricated structure on a 25,000- square-meter (270,000-square-foot) lot, slated for completion Feb. 3.

The SARS hospital was built from scratch in 2003 in just six days to treat an outbreak of a similar respiratory virus that had spread from China to more than a dozen countries and killed about 800 people. The hospital featured individual isolation units that looked like rows of tiny cabins.

Normally bustling streets, malls and other public spaces were eerily quiet in Wuhan on the second day of its lockdown.

Masks were mandatory in public, and images from the city showed empty shelves as people stocked up for what could be an extended isolation.

Train stations, the airport and subways were closed; police checked incoming vehicles but did not entirely close off roads.

Hospitals in Wuhan were grappling with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies. Videos circulating online showed throngs of frantic people in masks lined up for checks. Some users on Weibo said their family members had sought diagnoses but were turned away at hospitals that were at capacity.

At least eight hospitals in Wuhan issued public calls for donations of masks, googles, gowns and other protective medical gear, according to notices online.

Administrators at Wuhan University People’s Hospital set up a group chat on the popular WeChat messaging app to coordinate donations.

The “Fever Control Command Center” of the city of Huanggang also put out a call for donations publicized by the state-run People’s Daily, asking for medical supplies, medicine and disinfection equipment. The notice added that at the moment they wouldn’t accept supplies from foreign countries.

Authorities were taking precautions around the country. In the capital, Beijing, major public events were canceled indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of Lunar New Year celebrations. Two major tourist destinations, Beijing’s Forbidden City and Shanghai Disneyland, announced they will close indefinitely on Saturday.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 830, the National Health Commission said. Twenty-six people have died, including the first two deaths outside Hubei and the youngest recorded victim.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died there after returning from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives. Heilongjiang province in the northeast confirmed a death there but did not give details.

While the majority of deaths have been older patients, a 36-year-old man in Hubei was admitted to the hospital earlier this month after suffering from fever for three days. He died following a sudden cardiac arrest on Jan. 23.

Initial symptoms of the virus can mirror those of the cold and flu, including cough, fever, chest tightening and shortness of breath, but can worsen to pneumonia.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan, but people who visited or had personal connections to infected people were among the scattered cases counted beyond the mainland. South Korea and Japan both confirmed their second cases Friday and Singapore confirmed its third. Cases have been detected in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the United States, Thailand and Vietnam.

Many countries are screening travelers from China and isolating anyone with symptoms.

The World Health Organization decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency for now. The declaration can increase resources to fight a threat but its potential to cause economic damage makes the decision politically fraught.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns of the cities will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s Communist Party-led government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as SARS and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels.

The Wuhan outbreak is suspected to have begun from wild animals sold at a food market in the city. The market is closed for investigation.

Across China, a slew of cancelations and closures dampened the usual liveliness of Lunar New Year.

One Beijing subway station near a transport hub conducted temperature checks at its security checkpoint Friday. Some security personnel were clad in full-body hazardous material suits.

Schools prolonged their winter break and were ordered by the Ministry of Education to not hold any mass gatherings or exams. Transport departments will also be waiving fees and providing refunds for ticket cancelations.