Police fire tear gas as Delhi protesters vent anger at citizenship law

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Demonstrators torched vehicles in New Delhi on Sunday (December 15) as protests against a new citizenship law continued for a fifth straight day across the country.
A bus set on fire by demonstrators during a protest against a new citizenship law in New Delhi on Dec 15, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Indian police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who were torching vehicles in Delhi on Sunday (Dec 15) as protests against a new citizenship law continued for a fifth straight day across the country.

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.

The law's enactment on Dec 11 has stirred up protests across India, but the eastern part of the country, where resentment towards Bangladeshi immigrants has persisted for decades, has been among the worst hit. There have been demonstrations in the Indian capital since Friday.

On Sunday, protesters in South Delhi, including locals and students from Jamia Milia University, torched some buses, cars and two-wheelers.

A Reuters witness said police resorted to baton charges and firing tear gas on the protesters to disperse them.

Some injured protesters were taken to a nearby hospital, according to the Reuters witness, but police have not given injury toll figures.

Deputy chief fire officer Sunil Choudhary said four buses had been torched in South Delhi area and two firefighters injured.

Delhi fire service department has sent four fire engines to the location, deputy chief fire officer Choudhary said. "Roads are blocked we are unable to take the injured to the hospital," he told Reuters.

At close to 7pm local time, Delhi police said the situation was under control.

Meanwhile, protests against the Act continued in parts of eastern India. A highway connecting the states of West Bengal and Assam was blocked in several places on Sunday when protesters, demanding the law be scrapped, burnt tyres.

Internet services have been suspended in parts of West Bengal. State chief minister Mamata Banerjee in an address to the people urged for peace and warned that a "section of people are trying to take advantage of the situation and incite communal disharmony".

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