India: 4 killed during protests over citizenship law

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Gatherings banned after policeman and 3 civilians killed during clashes between pro-and anti-citizenship law protesters.

A police officer and three civilians were killed in the Indian capital Monday as clashes between pro- and anti-citizenship law protesters turned violent on the second day of demonstrations.

The violence began on Sunday when Kapil Mishra, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), warned police to clear the protests’ site ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s official visit.

Protesters threw stones at each other across multiple locations in northeast Delhi, one of the 11 administrative districts of the city, and set vehicles and shops ablaze.

The new law guarantees Indian citizenship to non-Muslim religious minorities escaping persecution in three neighboring countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Activists and opposition politicians have described the legislation as divisive, discriminatory and against Muslims as well as the country’s secular constitution.

The policeman, identified as Ratan Lal, was tasked in the area where the violence peaked Monday morning.

Amit Verma, East Delhi’s deputy commissioner of police, also suffered head and hand injuries, and is being treated at a nearby hospital.

The civilians have not been identified yet. Another 45 civilians are being treated at hospitals in Delhi, including six police officers.

Section 144, which prohibits mass public gatherings, has been imposed in Delhi, hours before Trump’s arrival in the city.

On the first day of his trip to India, Trump visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, a 17th century Mughal era mausoleum. He also addressed a huge crowd at a cricket stadium in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Premier Narendra Modi’s home state.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla convened an urgent meeting as authorities said they were monitoring the situation closely.

“We are monitoring the situation. Have instructed the police to ensure that law and order are maintained in North East Delhi… I urge everyone to exercise restraint for maintenance of peace and harmony,” said Anil Baijal, lieutenant governor in Delhi.

Following the constable’s death, Mishra, who had given an open call for violence, wrote on Twitter that “violence is not the way to reach a resolution.”

Locals allege that protesters supporting the law arrived at the site soon after Mishra’s ultimatum, and started pelting stones while chanting “Jai Shree Ram” [Hail Lord Ram], a chant synonymous with the BJP. The anti-citizenship law protesters pelted stones in response, leading the police to use tear gas.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged the capital’s governor Baijal and Home Minister Amit Shah to restore law and order.

“Very distressing news regarding disturbance of peace and harmony in parts of Delhi coming in. I sincerely urge Hon’ble LG n Hon’ble Union Home Minister to restore law and order n ensure that peace and harmony are maintained. Nobody should be allowed to orchestrate flagrations,” Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.

His Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) clinched 62 of the 70 seats in this month’s state elections, the ruling party’s first electoral test since the anti-government protests erupted last December.