Citizenship law: Students and opposition leaders step up protests; SC rejects inquiry panel plea

Students, opposition leaders and activists across regions stepped up their protests against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Tuesday even as at least 29 persons were arrested for violent clashes over the last couple of days in Jamia Millia Islamia and parts of UP, while the Supreme Court rejected plea for setting up an inquiry panel to probe the violence.

Fresh cases of violent protests were reported from some places, including in the national capital and Kerala, while a group of injured Jamia students alleged “barbaric” beatings, abuse and humiliation by the police during their crackdown on those protesting against the new law on Sunday.

Addressing a press conference here along with some activists, one Jamia student said he was beaten “mercilessly” when he was studying in the library along with 25 others, including 10-12 girls, while several others also alleged many were injured in the police action in Jamia as well as in UP’s Aligarh Muslim University.

The Supreme Court, however, declined to set up a committee of a retired apex court judge to inquire into incidents of violence in different parts of the country since Sunday and asked the petitioners to approach high courts.

Hearing a petition that students were indiscriminately arrested, were injured and were not getting proper medical treatment, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said in its order that each fact alleged by the petitioners is disputed, on behalf of the Centre, by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Police said it has arrested 10 people with criminal background for their alleged involvement in the violence near Jamia Millia Islamia University. but none of them are students.

The police had on Sunday detained around 50 students, but they were released later.

The university had virtually turned into a battlefield on Sunday as police entered the campus and also used force, leading to violence and arson in which four DTC buses, 100 private vehicles and 10 police bikes were damaged.

The situation remained tense in the university premises on Tuesday as protesters, including students and local residents, converged outside the varsity holding tricolour and placards to continue their demonstration against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens.

Braving freezing cold, they took out marches outside the varsity, shouting slogans against the government.

In Seelampur area of the national capital, angry protesters clashed with police, pelted stones at them and damaged several buses, while the police also resorted to baton charges and fired tear gas shells.

Meanwhile at a poll rally in Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Congress of spreading lies on the amended Citizenship Act and of creating atmosphere of fear for Muslims in India.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is in the US, assured the Indian community in New York that the new law was not anti-Muslim and said the Indian culture “does not teach us to hate”.

Several countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Canada and Israel have issued travel advisories to their respective citizens to exercise caution while travelling to India in the wake of large-scale protests across the country.

Under the new law, all but Muslims who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and are facing religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship.

Protests are being held across the country ever since a bill was introduced in Parliament earlier this month.

Fresh protests took place on Tuesday in Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal and several other parts of the country as well.

In Kerala, stones were hurled at state transport buses, shops were forcibly closed and protest marches were held in support of a dawn-to-dusk hartal, while police took into preventive arrest over 200 people.

The hartal was called organised by a group of 30 Islamic and political outfits against the amended Citizenship Act and police action against Jamila students in Delhi.

To express solidarity with the Jamia and AMU students, the Maulana Azad National Urdu University Teachers’ Association (MANUUTA) also took out a peaceful march on the varsity campus in Hyderabad.

Students of the Fergusson College in Maharashtra’s Pune also took out a rally against the CAA and the NRC.

In Tamil Nadu, Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan slammed the ruling AIADMK over the Citizenship Amendment Act and alleged it was being “obedient to their masters” by supporting the new law.

DMK president M K Stalin called the new law “hasty and autocratic” and alleged the BJP-led Centre’s objective was not India’s progress but trampling the rights of Muslims.

In West Bengal, protesters blocked roads and railway tracks, though curfew was lifted in Guwahati of neighbouring Assam following improvement in the law and order situation. Curfew was relaxed in Shillong too.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the BJP cannot bully the states into enforcing the law.

In Uttar Pradesh, officials said 26 people, including eight students, arrested in connection with the violence at Aligarh Muslim University and surrounding areas, have been released on personal bonds, while evacuation of hostels continued overnight.

However, 19 people have been arrested in Mau area of the state for violence on Monday night, which followed police action in Jamia.

In Muzaffarnagar, a Samajwadi Party worker was booked for a Facebook post against the new law.

Meanwhile, RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad held a demonstration at the Delhi University in support of the amended law.

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