Saturday, 12 June, 2021; 6:10 pm
New Delhi (AFP) – Six more protesters died in India Friday in fresh clashes between police and demonstrators, taking the death toll to 15 in more than a week of unrest triggered by a citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim.
The law — which makes it easier for persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries to gain citizenship, but not if they are Muslim — has stoked fears Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remould the world’s biggest democracy India as a Hindu nation, which he denies.
The latest deaths, in northern Uttar Pradesh where almost 20 percent of the state’s 200-million population are Muslim, followed the loss of three lives on Thursday when police opened fire on protesters in the northern city of Lucknow and the southern city of Mangalore.
Four of the demonstrators — two from Meerut and two from neighbouring Muzaffarnagar, both in Uttar Pradesh — died Friday from “gunshot wounds”, Meerut chief medical officer Rajkumar told AFP.
Rajkumar, who goes by one name, added that five police officers, including three with bullet wounds, were being treated in hospital.
Another demonstrator died of a gunshot wound in Bijnor district while the cause of the sixth death in Firozabad city was not yet known, local police spokesmen told AFP.
In the heart of India’s capital demonstrators held a sit-in protest at the Delhi Gate in the Old Delhi district, then marched to the country’s biggest mosque Jama Masjid in the afternoon.
The protesters later returned to Delhi Gate, where they clashed with baton-wielding police who deployed a water cannon to disperse the crowd.
The marchers, many chanting anti-Modi slogans, threw rocks at police in the street battle. At least one car was set on fire, and an AFP reporter saw demonstrators bleeding from their heads and mouths during the clashes.
“All the people here, be it those who are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian — they are all out on the streets,” Tanvi Gudiya told AFP at another Delhi rally in a Muslim neighbourhood after Friday prayers.
“So doesn’t it affect Modi at all? Does Modi not like anyone? Why is he becoming like Hitler?”
In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, there were new clashes between security forces and protesters in Vadodara city, a day after battles in the largest city Ahmedabad left 20 policemen and 10 locals injured.
On Thursday, two people were killed in Mangalore when police opened fire on a crowd of around 200 people after they ignored orders to disperse, an official told AFP.
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