India ushers in New Year with protests against citizenship law
NEW DELHI Thousands of Indians ushered in the New Year by demonstrating against a citizenship law despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempts to dampen protests that have run for nearly three weeks.
The protests have rocked India since Dec 12, when the government passed legislation easing the way for non-Muslim minorities from neighbouring Muslim-majority nations to gain Indian citizenship.
Combined with opposition to a proposed national register of citizens (NRC), many fear the law will discriminate against minority Muslims and chip away at India's secular constitution.
In Shaheen Bagh in the capital New Delhi, hundreds of residents have blocked a major highway for 18 days.
Mr Irshad Alam, a 25-year-old resident of Shaheen Bagh, stood with his one-year-old in his arm and his wife by his side. He said he had been participating in the protest every day.
"It's freezing here," he said, "But we are still here because we care about this movement."
Resident Maqsood Alam said protesters were not afraid of a police crackdown.
"We've been expecting that every day. But I'll tell you one thing," he said. "This crowd here is not afraid of the government. They are ready to give their lives for this movement."
In Hyderabad city, at least two small groups of demonstrators have been organising flash protests, to skirt police restrictions on larger gatherings.
Typically, half a dozen protesters pop up in public places, such as malls holding up placards and encouraging others to join in.
Some protests have turned violent, and at least 25 people have been killed in clashes with police since early December.
Initially caught off guard by the scale of the protests, Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party has scrambled to douse public anger, with Mr Modi declaring there had been no discussions on the NRC, contradicting party colleagues.- REUTERS