Hundreds of protesters have been arrested in India after defying a police ban on protests against the government’s new anti-Muslim citizenship law.
Across India on Thursday thousands of demonstrators poured into cities and towns to continue to show their opposition to the new law, which came into effect last week.
Authorities had imposed a ban on demonstrations in parts of the capital Delhi, and throughout the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, preventing more than four people gathering in one place.
The authorities also shut down more than a dozen metro stations in Delhi and closed major roads into and out of the city, causing massive traffic jams.
The government sought to further disrupt planned protests by cutting off communication networks in certain areas. Vodafone and Airtel, two of India’s biggest cell service providers, said on Thursday they have cut mobile services in parts of New Delhi on government orders.
Despite these efforts, demonstrators turned out in force across the country, and hundreds were quickly dragged away by police as they brandished placards and chanted slogans.
“More than 14 buses are filled with detainees at the Red Fort. But more and more people are pouring in, too many to be detained,” Kawalpreet Kaur, the Delhi President of All India Student's Association, tweeted.
At the center of the unrest is the Citizenship Amendment Act, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi forced through parliament last week. The law makes it easier for migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh to gain Indian citizenship — but not if they are Muslim.
Critics say the move is the latest sign that Modi is moving India away from its secular foundations and creating a Hindu state. In August, Modi revoked the special autonomy given to Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, imposing severe restrictions on travel and communication.
Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court rejected a plea seeking to stall the implementation of the law, but said it would ask the government to respond to a batch of petitions challenging the amendment to a 1955 citizenship law and set a hearing date for January.
Police have cracked down violently on protests in the last week, with at least six people were killed and hundreds injured as Indian railed against the new law. In clashes with protesters in the last week, officers charged at demonstrators with batons, and fired tear gas to disperse crowds.
Modi has attempted to undermine the protests by telling a rally on Tuesday that opposition parties are “spreading lies and rumors,” “instigating violence” and had used “[their] full force to create an atmosphere of illusion and falsehood.”
Cover: Indian policemen baton charge a man during a protest against a new citizenship law in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)