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19 Dec 2019 | 02:20 AM UTC

India: Transport and communication disruptions in Delhi amid nationwide anti-CAA protests December 19 /update 14

Severe transport and communication disruptions reported in Delhi amid nationwide anti-CAA protests on December 19, several arrested; further protests, clashes expected over the near term

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IND

Event

State authorities have ordered telecommunications companies in Delhi to suspend all types of communication including voice, SMS, and data from 09:00 to 13:00 (local time) on Thursday, December 19, to five areas in Delhi due to anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests. Posts circulating on social media indicate that these communication suspensions are ongoing as of 13:25 on Thursday, and it is not clear when the services will be restored. State officials have also implemented section 144, which prohibits the gathering of more than four people. Several thousand people were protesting at Red Fort in the late morning on Thursday, and police officers arrested several demonstrators. Delhi Traffic Police officials have confirmed widespread traffic disruptions throughout Delhi, including the closure of state borders. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has announced the closure of 17 metro stations across Delhi as of 13:00 on Thursday.

Protests were reported in Hyderabad (Telangana), Bengaluru (Karnataka), and several other areas on Thursday. Local media outlets have reported a heavy security presence around August Kranti Maidan (Mumbai) ahead of a scheduled protest at 16:00 on Thursday. 

While the curfew has been lifted in Guwahati (Assam) as of Tuesday, December 17, schools are to remain closed until Sunday, December 22.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal political party has also called for a nationwide general strike on Saturday, December 21. 

A heightened security presence, and significant transportation, business, and telecommunication disruptions are 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 - in particular 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 six protesters as of December 15. 

Advice

Individuals in India are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests and demonstrations, prepare for transportation, business, and communications disruptions, budget for additional time to reach your destination, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.