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20 Dec 2019 | 10:05 AM UTC

India: Fresh Anti-CAA protests reported nationwide December 20 /update 18

Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests ongoing nationwide December 20; further protests, clashes expected over the near term

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IND

Event

At least five protesters were killed in Bijnore, Kanpur, Sambhal, and Firozabad (Uttar Pradesh) on Friday, December 20, as clashes erupted between police and protesters amid nationwide protests.

In Delhi, police reportedly used water cannons to disperse crowds in Daryaganj after protesters set a car ablaze near Delhi Gate at around 18:15 (local time). Protest in support of the CAA have also been reported at around 18:26 in Connaught Place. As of 19:20, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) reportedly closed the Central Secretariat, Chawri Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Rajiv Chowk, Delhi Gate, Lal Quila, Jama Masjid, Khan Market, Janpath, Pragati Maidan, Mandi House, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jaffrabad, Maujpur-Babarpur, Shiv Vihar, and Johri Enclave stations. Further transportation disruptions have been reported across the city as traffic has been barred since 18:00 between Mandi House and ITO.

State authorities have ordered several telecommunications companies in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to suspend all types of telecommunications including voice, SMS, and data. In Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), internet services operated by Airtel have been suspended. It is not clear when the services will be restored. Authorities in Gujarat warned similar measure could be implemented across the state at any time if needed between Friday and Sunday, December 22.

State officials have also implemented section 144, which prohibits the gathering of more than four people in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Delhi.

Protests were also reported in several cities nationwide, including Hyderabad (Telangana), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Kolkata (West Bengal), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), and Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Pune (Maharastra), Nagpur (Maharastra), Meerut (Uttar Pradesh), and Bahraich (Uttar Pradesh).

A heightened security presence, and significant transportation, business, and telecommunication disruptions are expected nationwide over the coming hours and days. Further 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. Nationwide protests opposing the CAA began on December 10; security forces have killed at least nine protesters as of December 20.

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 erupt 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).

Individuals present in Delhi are advised to limit movements within the city as much as possible, check road conditions prior to departure, budget for additional time to reach their destination, confirm all flight reservations, and contact their airline for additional information.