Eight die in citizenship protests

Police have banned public gatherings in parts of New Delhi and other cities for a third day and cut internet services to try to stop protests that have left eight people dead and more than 1200 detained.

The protests have targeted a new citizenship law opponents say threatens the secular nature of Indian democracy in favour of a Hindu state.

More demonstrations are planned around India, with opposition to the legislation quickly expanding from predominantly Muslim universities and communities to a much wider section of the Indian public.

While some see the law as a slight against Muslims, others including Hindu conservatives in Prime Minister Narendra Modi Bharatiya Janata Party fear it will encourage immigration to India, where public services for its 1.3 billion people are already highly strained.

"In effect, some of the BJP's own rank and file, the very people the party has sought to help, have come out against the law," said Michael Kugelmanof the Asia Program at the US-based Wilson Center.

Kugelman said the government's failure to respond to the protests, except to accuse political opponents of orchestrating them, is "likely to galvanise the protesters even more".

A law banning the assembly of more than four people was again imposed on Friday in parts of the Indian capital as well as in several cities in northeastern Assam state and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where a motorised rickshaw driver was killed during a protest in the capital Lucknow.

A total of eight deaths have been reported so far, including five in Assam and two in southern Karnataka state.

Authorities erected roadblocks and turned areas around mosques in New Delhi, Lucknow and other Muslim-dominated areas into security fortresses to prevent widespread demonstrations after Friday prayers.

Police temporarily held 1200 protesters in New Delhi alone on Thursday and hundreds of others were detained in other cities after they defied bans on assembly. Most protesters were released later in the day.


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