Protest Guwahati
People assemble for a peaceful protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill despite curfew, in Guwahati, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 Image Credit: PTI

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not visit India as planned next week amid violent protests in India's northeast over a new citizenship law.

Abe was scheduled to begin his visit on Sunday and had been slated to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Assam, one of the regions where demonstrations have turned violent. The talks would have been the 16th between the two leaders and their deferral will be a blow to Abe's policy of cultivating ties with India to balance out China's growing power in the region.

"Both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future," India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.

India's new Citizenship Amendment Bill that was approved on Wednesday changed the rules governing the granting of citizenship to undocumented migrants to include religion as a criterion. It bars undocumented Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from seeking citizenship, while allowing their counterparts from other religions to do so.

In recent days, angry protests have erupted in Assam with thousands clashing with police amid concerns the new laws may lead to an influx of migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. There have also been demonstrations in other northeastern states including Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Tripura, forcing the government to send in hundreds of soldiers to aid local police.

When asked whether the trip would go ahead, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier Friday that there was a need to pay close attention to local conditions.

India Citizenship law: UN monitoring outcome

The UN is closely monitoring the implications of India's Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the passing of which has led to widespread violent protests in the country's northeast region, according to a spokesperson.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Thursday: "We're aware that the Lower and Upper Houses of the Indian Parliament have passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and we're also aware of the concerns that have been publicly expressed. The United Nations is closely analysing the possible consequences of the law."

Haq also said that some of "human rights mechanisms, including our rapporteurs, have already been expressing their concerns about the nature of this law".

The bill, which has now become a law after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent on Thursday night, seeks to give refuge to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Internet shutdown in hotspot after deadly protests

Internet access was cut in India's northeastern city of Guwahati on Friday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.

Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, and which other critics say is anti-Muslim.

On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.

No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.

A local government official said that internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.

The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.