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.


Philippines to charter flight to bring home citizens from Lebanon

Updated 08 August 2020

Philippines to charter flight to bring home citizens from Lebanon

  • Remains of four who died in Tuesday’s massive blast in Beirut also to be repatriated

MANILA: The Philippines will soon be sending a chartered flight to Lebanon to bring back Filipinos impacted by a massive explosion at the port of Beirut as early as next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday.

“The DFA is paying P15,000,000 ($305,643) from its funds for a chartered Qatar Air flight to repatriate from Beirut. The Philippine Embassy in Beirut is negotiating it and disbursing the amount. Aug. 16 is [the date set for] arrival,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said, adding that the flight will also bring home the remains of four Filipinos who died in Tuesday’s blast.

Around 400 Filipinos from Lebanon are expected to return following the catastrophic explosion, which decimated the Lebanese capital.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Sarah Lou Arriola said that President Rodrigo Duterte was responding to the “clamor of Filipinos in Lebanon” and that the “chartered flight is the most concrete, immediate and timely assistance” that the DFA could provide given the current situation there.

Reports state that the deadly explosion was caused by a cargo of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored at a warehouse in the port of Beirut for years. 

The odorless chemical is commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer but is also used to make powerful bombs.

“With ground operations clearing more area and embassy personnel receiving additional reports, the department is taking in new inputs with regard to the status of the Filipino community in the country,” the DFA said in a statement. 

Data released by the DFA placed the number of Filipinos impacted at 48, with 42 wounded, four dead, and two missing.

“By day’s end yesterday, the number of injured oversees Filipino workers stands at 42, an increase of 11 from the previous report,” Arriola said.

Two of the wounded remained in critical condition and were being monitored at the Rizk Hospital.

“We were also alerted that another Filipino was reported missing, increasing the number to two. The number of Filipino fatalities, meanwhile, remains at four,” she added.

The DFA said that, earlier, it had expected the number of affected Filipinos to increase considering the magnitude of the Beirut destruction.

Even before the onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the DFA had begun its repatriation activities from Lebanon to limit the worsening condition of Filipinos in the country due to economic woes. It has repatriated at least 1,508 Filipinos from Lebanon since December 2019.