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27 Dec 2019 | 08:42 AM UTC

India: Protests continue across the country over citizenship law December 27 /update 24

Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests reported nationwide December 27; heightened security measures and transportation disruption expected

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IND

Event

Nationwide protests continued amid heightened security over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Friday, December 27.

In Delhi, protesters gathered at the Jama Masjid, Jantar Mantar and outside Uttar Pradesh Bhavan despite heavy security measures and road blockades implemented throughout the city. Around 100 protesters were reportedly arrested by police outside Uttar Pradesh Bhavan. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which had previously closed the Lok Kalyan Marg metro station, resumed normal services in the evening (local time).

In Uttar Pradesh, SMS and internet communications have been suspended in 21 districts (out of 75) including in the state capital of Lucknow. While internet services have been restored in Meerut and Aligarh, it remains unclear when normal services will resume in the other districts.

In Mumbai, hundreds of policemen have been deployed throughout the city as thousands of protesters gathered in August Kranti Maidan for a counter-protest in favor of the CAA.

A heightened security presence, and significant transportation, business, and telecommunication disruption is expected nationwide over the coming hours and days. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.

Context

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslim minorities fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. Opponents claim that the legislation is in violation of the constitution, which prohibits religious discrimination against citizens. In conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), activists also claim that it specifically seeks to target Indian Muslims. The NRC aims to identify illegal immigrants by requiring individuals to prove their citizenship based on specific documentation prior to a certain cut-off date, including land and tenancy records. The NRC has so far only been implemented in Assam, where more than 1.9 million people failed to qualify as of August and were subsequently put in detention centers. However, on November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah said that the NRC will be implemented nationwide. While the NRC will expose all illegal immigrants, opponents of the CAA argue that the act isolates Muslim Indians as it favors all non-Muslim religious minorities who may fail to qualify for the NRC but will nonetheless be assured citizenship. The CAA has also received opposition - particularly in several northeastern states - due to fears that it will encourage an influx of immigrants that will affect the ethnic balance.

The Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) passed the CAA legislation on December 9, while the Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) passed the bill on December 11. India's Supreme Court refused petitions to halt the implementation of the CAA on December 18. A hearing on the act has been scheduled for January 22. At least 27 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters, and police officers have arrested several hundred demonstrators since December 11. 

Advice

Individuals in India are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations as violence may flare up without warning, and prepare for widespread transportation, business, and communications disruptions. If a demonstration erupts without warning, individuals are advised not to cross roadblocks, take shelter in a safe place, and avoid taking pictures. Travelers should adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities (especially if curfews are enforced).