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Fresh violence over citizenship law casts shadow over Trump visit to India

World News | Published:

At least 10 people have died during clashes over the law, which provides fast-track naturalisation for some foreign-born minorities – but not Muslims.

Citizenship law protest

At least 10 people including one police officer have been killed during two days of clashes in the Indian capital over a new citizenship law.

The violence in New Delhi cast a shadow over US president Donald Trump’s visit to the country.

After his talks with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Mr Trump told reporters that he had heard about the violence, but did not discuss it with the Indian leader.

New Delhi protests
Rival groups have clashed on the streets of New Delhi (AP)

During the violence, a group of Hindus carrying pickaxes and iron rods hurled rocks at Muslims.

Black smoke rose into the sky after Hindu protesters set fruit and vegetable shops and a Muslim shrine on fire in the Bhajanpur area in New Delhi’s north-east, witnesses said.

In addition to the 10 deaths, at least 150 people have been injured in the clashes since Monday, according to Sunil Kumar, the medical superintendent of Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital.

India has been rocked by violence since Parliament approved a new citizenship law in December that provides fast-track naturalisation for some foreign-born religious minorities, but not Muslims.

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New Delhi Protests
Push carts belonging to street vendors go up in flames (AP)

Mr Trump declined to comment on the new law. He said: “I don’t want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India and hopefully they’re going to make the right decision for the people.”

A group of Hindus roamed the area shouting praises to Hindu gods and goddesses. Police fired tear gas to disperse them and a group of rival Muslims. They retreated to the two sides of a major road.

Also on Tuesday, protesters in several other areas of north-eastern New Delhi defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people and threw stones and set some shops and vehicles on fire, a police officer said. Some homes were attacked with rocks.

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The officer said that the situation was tense but under control. Police and paramilitary forces sent reinforcements to quell the clashes.

Protests on the streets of New Delhi
A police officer was among the dead (AP)

During Monday’s protests, police fired tear gas and used canes as they charged at protesters in several areas of New Delhi. The rival groups hurled rocks at each other and set some houses, shops, vehicles and a gasoline pump on fire. Police closed two metro stations in the area.

One police officer was killed in the violence after he was hit by rocks, police officer Anuj Kumar said. Eleven other officers were injured by rocks as they tried to separate rival groups.

Also on Monday, Hindu nationalist and communist groups held pro- and anti-US street demonstrations in the capital.

Critics say the country is moving towards a religious citizenship test.

At a massive rally in Ahmedabad after Mr Trump’s arrival on Monday, the president praised India’s history of religious tolerance, saying many faiths “worship side by side in harmony”.

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