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21 Dec 2019 | 09:46 AM UTC

India: Protests continue across the country over citizenship law December 21 /update 19

Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests reported nationwide December 21; heightened security measures and transportation disruptions expected

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IND

Event

Nationwide protests occurred across India over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Saturday, December 21. In Delhi, a massive protest took place at Jama Masjid and Jantar Mantar. In the evening (local time), hundreds of protestors are still on the streets, defying prohibitory orders. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) reopened all metro stations closed on Friday, as of the morning of Saturday. However, according to police officials, traffic could be adversely affected on Bhishma Pitamah Marg and Lodhi road from Maharshi Raman Marg area from 06:00 am to 09:00 on Sunday, December 22, due to a "Born to Run Half Marathon".

In Kanpur, police reportedly fired tear gas and used batons on the protesters who set fire to a police station. The situation remains tense in the area. Protesters also clashed with the police today across Uttar Pradesh, where 15 people have died during protests over the last two days and several more in critical conditions in hospital. In Assam, thousands of women held marches while a curfew has been imposed in Tinsukia from 20:00 to 05:00 on Sunday, December 22. Internet connections are reported to be down across Rampur and clashes also broke out in the Idgah area.

Curfew has been relaxed in Mangaluru (Karnataka) from 15:00 to 18:00 (local time) today and will be removed on Monday. However, a section 144, which prohibits the gathering of more than four people, will remain in effect until further notice. The section has also been implemented in Haridwar and remains in effect in Uttar Pradesh, and parts of Delhi.

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. At least 19 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters 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).

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.