Indian PM plea for calm as citizenship unrest rages

India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has appealed for calm as violent protests against a new law on illegal migrants entered a fifth day.

Large demonstrations are taking place in the capital Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

Monday’s protests came a day after clashes between police and protesters in Delhi left at least 50 injured.

Protesters are angry at a law entitling citizenship to some non-Muslim migrants from three Muslim-majority countries.

But people are divided on why they have taken to the streets. Some critics say the law is anti-Muslim, while others – especially in border regions – fear large-scale migration.

The protests – which have left six people dead – began in the north-eastern state of Assam on Thursday, before spreading to other parts of northern and eastern India.

But as students resumed their protests on Monday, Mr Modi attempted to calm tensions in a series of tweets.

“No Indian has anything to worry regarding this act. This act is only for those who have faced years of persecution outside and have no other place to go except India,” the prime minister wrote.

“This is the time to maintain peace, unity and brotherhood.”

Authorities have tried to curb the protests by shutting down internet services, so it is unclear how many people in affected areas have seen his tweets.

Several lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to intervene, pointing out that officers had allegedly assaulted students in bathrooms, but the chief justice said that the court would not take any action until the protests ceased.

Delhi police spokesman MS Randhawa denied the allegations, saying his officers “exercised maximum restraint”.

The UK, US and Canada have issued travel warnings for people visiting India’s north-east, telling their citizens to “exercise caution” if travelling to the region.

The law allows non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India illegally, to become citizens.

Protests resumed at the city’s prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university on Monday morning, despite violent clashes on Sunday which resulted in 35 students being detained.

A march on Sunday ended with at least three buses and several motorbikes being torched, roads blocked and stones being thrown at officers, who responded with tear gas. -BBC

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