India protests spread over ‘anti-Muslim’ law

On Sunday evening thousands took to the streets in the northeast and other protests were reported across India in Delhi, Aligarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Patna and Raipur. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

India protests spread over ‘anti-Muslim’ law

  • The new bill fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from three neighboring countries
  • Four buses and two police vehicles were reportedly set ablaze during protests

NEW DELHI: Fresh protests were expected across India on Monday over a new citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim, after clashes overnight in the capital and days of unrest in the northeast that left six people dead.
The bill fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from three neighboring countries, but critics allege it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims — something he denies.
On Sunday evening thousands took to the streets in the northeast, the scene of days of rioting and deadly running battles with police, while other protests were reported across India in Delhi, Aligarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Patna and Raipur.
In the capital, officers fired tear gas and charged with batons as several thousand demonstrators marched, and rallied outside the Jamia Millia Islamia university and police headquarters. Four buses and two police vehicles were reportedly set ablaze.
Police stormed the university campus, with media outlets reporting as many as 100 students and a dozen officers were injured.
Around 50 people were detained and released after a night behind bars on Monday, police said.
Students insisted in a statement that they disassociated themselves from any violence.
“We have time and again maintained that our protests are peaceful and non-violent. We stand by this approach and condemn any party involved in the violence,” they declared.
Authorities in northern Uttar Pradesh have snapped Internet access in western parts of the state following the demonstrations on Aligarh, home to a large university and a sizeable Muslim population.
However, the main epicenter of the protests has been in India’s far-flung northeastern states, long a seething and violent melting pot of ethnic tensions.
Their people are opposed to the citizenship law because they fear it will allow several hundred thousand immigrants from Bangladesh, many of them Hindu, to stay.
On Sunday night in Assam state — following days of rioting and clashes with police that have left six people dead — around 6,000 people protested on Sunday evening, with no major incidents reported.
The UN human rights office said last week it was concerned the law “would appear to undermine the commitment to equality before the law enshrined in India’s constitution.”
Modi on Sunday blamed the main opposition Congress party and its allies for the unrest, while Home Minister Amit Shah called again for calm.
“Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from the northeast will remain intact,” Shah said in a speech.
The new law is being challenged in the Supreme Court by rights groups and a Muslim political party, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s secular traditions.


Clampdown on dissent pushes young Kashmiris into ‘resistance’

Updated 7 min 16 sec ago

Clampdown on dissent pushes young Kashmiris into ‘resistance’

  • Separatists fighting Indian rule in the disputed region have stepped up attacks on lower level politicians
  • Two security officials said that around 500 politicians had been moved since Thursday

NEW DELHI: When Bashir Ahmad Lone’s son Mehraj Uddin did not return home from a picnic with friends, his family informed the police. A day later, on June 5, the young man’s photograph was making the rounds on social media. He was dressed in military fatigues and carrying a gun.

“We never thought that could happen,” the father of the 24-year-old construction worker from Arigam village in Pulwama district of Kashmir told Arab News.
“Sad thing is that it’s not only my son, there are many youngsters joining militancy. In frustration, people are picking up guns.”
A year since the revocation of Kashmir’s special autonomous status by India and subsequent lockdown of the region, hopelessness, anger and increasing violence have pushed more youths into extreme forms of resistance.
“It is a sad reflection in any conflict zone, more so in Kashmir,” said Gowhar Geelani, a Kashmiri journalist and political analyst. “When all democratic forms of dissent are disallowed and democratic spaces choke, some youth and impressionable minds do take refuge in extreme forms of resistance.”
On Aug. 5 last year, New Delhi annulled Article 370 of India’s constitution, which had guaranteed Kashmir’s autonomy, and divided the state into the Union Territory of Ladakh and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir — directly governed by a New Delhi representative.
Thousands of additional troops were sent to support 500,000 servicemen already deployed in the Muslim-dominated region to enforce a military lockdown on its population of 13 million.
Thousands of local political leaders and civil society activists were detained and some of them still remain under arrest.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Kashmiris say the revocation of region’s special autonomous status by New Delhi broke the last bond between them and India.

• Youths embrace militancy as a form of dissent in the absence of any outlet to express their anger.

Some 16 km from Arigam where Mehraj Uddin Lone was last seen, another boy, 19-year-old Shoib Ahmad Bhat from Chursoo village, also in Pulawama district, joined militants on July 13.
“I fear security forces will get hold of him and kill him, before his promising life can serve any purpose,” the young paramedic’s father, Mohammad Shafi Bhat, said.
Bhat said the overturning of Article 370 broke the last bond of trust. “Article 370 was a sort of bond between India and Kashmir. The special status gave us benefits in our education, employment and it was a matter of pride for us,” he said.
Last month alone, several young educated men, including a doctoral student from Srinagar, were reported to have joined the local militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.
“The situation is very grim in the valley. Youth are frustrated and angry and there is a strong sense of alienation,” said social and political activist, Mudasir Dar.