Protests spread across India over ‘anti-Muslim’ law

protests erupted across India Sunday over a controversial citizenship bill that critics fear could further marginalize the country's minority Muslim community.

Protests erupted across India Sunday over a controversial citizenship bill that critics fear could further marginalize the country’s minority Muslim community.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which was signed into law last week that promises fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from three neighbouring countries, but critics allege it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims – something he denies.

Protests spread across India over 'anti-Muslim' law

He claims is because they are not minorities in India’s neighboring countries — has raised concerns about the bill’s constitutionality and the growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in India.

Protests broke out at universities across the country, including in Hyderabad, Varanasi, and the capital New Delhi, according to Indian media, while videos showed police firing tear gas at protesters at Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh. Ongoing protests in Assam, in India’s northeast, turned violent, with at least five people killed, police said.

Many in Assam and Tripura, states in India’s northeast, also fear that it could see large numbers of Hindus migrating to the region, outnumbering the region’s 200 distinct indigenous groups and changing its religious and ethnic makeup.

Protests spread across India over 'anti-Muslim' law
Students of Jamia Millia Islamia University stage a protest against the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 

There are around 16 million Hindus in Bangladesh alone, and naturalizing large numbers of immigrants could also greatly impact employment, government subsidies and education.

The protest at Jamia Milia Islamia was not organized by the university or its students, according to its vice chancellor Najma Akhtar. “From the areas around the university, a call had gone out for an organized protest,” she said.

One student protester, 21-year-old Hanzala Mojibi, said he was among the group who ran from the police advance into the library.

“We were about 200-300 people who were trapped inside,” he told CNN. “We tried to negotiate with the police to not use violence. But they surrounded us and took our phones and broke them.

They broke the CCTV cameras installed there.”Mojibi said police “abused and humiliated us.”

“We were made to kneel on the ground for 30 minutes and at any time they heard any students resisting, they would beat us in retaliation,” he added. “Afterward they told us to leave the college.”

Protests spread across India over 'anti-Muslim' law
Police clash with demonstrators following a protest against the Indian government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 

The bill comes months after Modi’s government stripped the majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomous status, essentially giving New Delhi more control over the region’s affairs and enabling mass Hindu migration to the region.

That same month, nearly 2 million people in Assam were left off a controversial new National Register of Citizens, which critics feared could be used to justify religious discrimination against Muslims in the state.