More than 100 activists protesting against a new Indian citizenship law were injured in New Delhi on Sunday as they clashed with police who used tear gas and baton charges to disperse demonstrators at a major university.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says the new law will save religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians from persecution in neighbouring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by offering them a path to Indian citizenship. But critics say the law, which does not make the same provision for Muslims, weakens India’s secular foundations.
Sunday was the fifth straight day of protests across the country against the law enacted earlier this month, and the third day running in the capital.
Police tried to contain thousands of protesters, including locals and students, who had gathered near the Jamia Millia Islamia University in southeast Delhi. Clashes erupted and authorities said protesters torched buses, cars and motorbikes.
Officials at two local hospitals said more than 100 people with injuries had been brought in following the clashes.
“Many of them have fracture injuries. We are running out of plaster of paris for casts,” said Inamul Hassan, an official at the Alshifa Hospital located near the university, adding more than 80 people with injuries had been brought to the hospital.
A spokesman for Holy Family Hospital told Reuters’ partner agency ANI that it had treated 26 students suffering from minor injuries.
POLICE STORM CAMPUS
Police resorted to baton charges and firing tear gas on the protesters to disperse them, according to a Reuters witness. Officers stormed the campus grounds to confront protesters they said fled into the university and threw stones at police.
“About 4000 people were protesting and police did what they did to disperse them when the crowd burnt buses,” said Chinmoy Biswal, a senior police officer in the area. “If it had been a peaceful mob it would have been dispersed peacefully.”
He added that police entered the campus to maintain order and that six officers had been wounded in the clashes.
However some students and officials at Jamia Millia, a storied institution almost 100 years old, decried the police action.
“Police have entered the campus by force, no permission was given. Our staff and students are being beaten up and forced to leave the campus,” Waseem Ahmed Khan, a senior faculty member of the university, told ANI.
Student Tehreem Mirza said students took shelter in the library after police on the campus fired tear gas. (Reuters)