New Delhi: Thousands of people joined fresh rallies against a contentious citizenship law in India on Saturday, with 21 killed so far in this month's unrest.
Eight-year-old boy among those killed
An eight-year-old boy and four protesters were killed in India on Friday in clashes between police and demonstrators, officials said Saturday, as unrest over a controversial citizenship law rages into a second week.
The latest deaths took the nationwide toll from the violence to 20.
There has been growing disquiet about the law, which gives people from persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries an easier path to citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.
On Friday, demonstrations turned violent in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims make up almost 20 percent of the 200-million population.
Bullet fatalities, trampling
Police have so far said that the day's unrest in Uttar Pradesh claimed 11 lives in total, including the child, who was trampled.
Uttar Pradesh police spokesman Shirish Chandra confirmed to AFP that the other 10 people died after being shot.
"Ten people were killed on Friday. All of them were bullet fatalities. We are looking into other cases," Chandra said.
The boy had died after 2,500 people including children joined a rally in the holy city of Varanasi, district police chief Prabhakar Chaudhary told AFP.
"When the police tried to quell the protests, these persons ran for cover and a stampede-like situation emerged, in which this boy died," Chaudhary said.
He added that police "exercised complete restraint against the crowds that engaged in attacking them with stones".
The Times of India said the boy was playing in a lane with a friend when they were trampled by a crowd being chased by police.
Two deaths were in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur district, a spokesman for the district police chief told AFP.
Five other people in the state's districts - two from Meerut, two from Muzaffarnagar and one from Bignor - died from gunshot wounds, medical and police officials told AFP Friday.
A sixth death was confirmed by police in Firozabad city on Friday. The locations of the other deaths have not been revealed by authorities.
The bodies of the men were brought into a hospital in Meerut, with two from neighbouring Muzaffarnagar district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Meerut district's chief medical officer Rajkumar, who goes by one name, told AFP.
"We will be conducting a post-mortem to ascertain the exact cause of the death," he said, adding that seven more demonstrators were taken to local hospitals with injuries.
In addition, police in Uttar Pradesh have arrested 218 people in connection with the violence that broke out in Lucknow, Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh said on Saturday.
The police official said that while the total number of arrests made in the state was unclear "218 people have been arrested in connection with the protests in Lucknow."
He added that investigations were underway to identify any possible involvement of NGOs and people affiliated with political parties in the protests.
"Outsiders were involved in the violence as per the preliminary investigations, we are investigating all angles to find out the involvement of NGOs or political persons in this," Singh said.
The DGP added that extra measures have been taken to avoid violence in the future and said that no one found guilty will be let off easily.
Critics say the law discriminates against Muslims and is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist agenda, but he has repeatedly denied the claims.
Authorities have scrambled to contain the situation, imposing emergency laws, blocking internet access, and shutting down shops and restaurants in sensitive pockets across the country.
Modi called a meeting with his council of ministers on Saturday to discuss the security situation in the country following protests against a controversial citizenship law, said two government sources.
The law making it easier for persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries to gain citizenship - but not if they are Muslim - has stoked fears that Modi wants to remould India as a Hindu nation, which he denies.
States reject NPR, govt. says they can't
State governments have no powers to reject the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act as the legislation was enacted under the Union List of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, and the National Population Register which is to be carried out next year, a top official said on Friday.
The statement came after chief ministers of West Bengal, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced that the CAA was "unconstitutional" and has no place in their respective states.
"The states have no powers to deny implementation of a central law which is in the Union List," the Home Ministry official said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday declared that the planned National Register for Citizens (NRC) will not be implemented in the state, becoming the first major NDA ally to reject the controversial measure that has been stoutly opposed by several non-BJP chief ministers.
There are 97 items under the Union List of the 7th Schedule and they include Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Citizenship and Naturalisation.
Referring to NPR, which will be carried out along with the census exercise next year, the official said no state can refuse to carry out the process as it will be done as per the Citizenship Act.
The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. It is being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
A usual resident is defined for the purposes of NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.
Last week, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said "an anti-constitutional law (CAA) will have no place" in his state.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "In your (BJP) manifesto, instead of development issues, you have put in promise to divide the country. Why will citizenship be on the basis of religion? I will not accept this. We dare you".
"You can pass laws in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha forcefully because you have the number. But we will not let you divide the country," she said.
Banerjee also announced that her government will not allow NPR exercise in Bengal.
Describing CAA as a "direct assault" on India's secular character, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his government will not let the legislation be implemented in his state.
"We have a majority in the assembly and we will block the bill," Singh said.
United in protest
"All the people here, be it those who are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian - they are all out on the streets," Tanvi Gudiya told AFP at a rally after Friday prayers in a Muslim neighbourhood in the capital New Delhi.
"So doesn't it affect Modi at all? Does Modi not like anyone? Why is he becoming like Hitler?"
The protests in Delhi centred on India's largest mosque Jama Masjid where thousands of people - some carrying a huge Indian flag - chanted as riot police looked on.
The demonstrators, joined by the leader of a prominent group in the Dalit community - the lowest group in the Hindu caste system - later pushed their way out of the mosque and tore down posters of Modi before staging a sit-in at Delhi Gate in the Old Delhi district.
More than a dozen metro stations were closed for the second straight day in the capital.
In India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, where mobile internet and text messaging services were cut in several areas, fresh clashes erupted in Lucknow, the state capital.
Violence also spread to other parts of the state, where almost 20 percent of the 200 million population are Muslim, with demonstrators throwing stones and police firing tear gas.
In Modi's home state of Gujarat, there were new clashes between security forces and protesters in Vadodara city, a day after street battles in the largest city Ahmedabad left 20 policemen and 10 locals injured.
I&B advisory for TV channels
For the second time during the agitation against the Citizenship Act, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued a follow up advisory asking TV channels to abstain from showing any content that instigates violence.
In a advisory issued to private TV channels, DTH operators and cable operators, the I&B Ministry said that reference is invited to the advisory issued on December 11 on TV channels to prescribe strictly to the programme code.
"It is observed that notwithstanding the advisory, some TV channels are broadcasting content which do not appear to be in the spirit of the programme codes," the Ministry said.
The advisory has reiterated that "TV channels may abstain from showing any content which is likely to instigate violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitudes".
This includes abstaining from programmes that "criticizes, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of country, or contains anything affecting the integrity of the nation", the advisory noted seeking strict compliance.
India objects to Malaysian PM's remark
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is "a matter entirely internal to India" and does not impact the status of any citizen, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday, in response to the "factually inaccurate" remarks of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the country's recently enacted legislation.
"According to media reports, Malaysia's Prime Minister has yet again remarked on a matter that is entirely internal to India. CAA provides for citizenship through naturalisation to be fast-tracked for non-citizens who are persecuted minorities from three countries," the MEA said in a statement.
"The CAA doesn't impact the status of any Indian citizen or deprive any Indian of any faith of her/his citizenship. Malaysian PM's remark is factually inaccurate. We call upon Malaysia to refrain from commenting on internal developments in India, without the right understanding of facts," the statement read.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 on Friday, the Malaysian Prime Minister questioned the "necessity" of the Citizenship Act, when Indians have "lived together for 70 years", according to media reports.
The CAA makes it easier for "persecuted" minorities from three neighbouring countries to get citizenship but not if they are Muslims, Mohamad was quoted as saying.
"I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, now is taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship," said the 94-year-old leader.
"If we do that here, I do not know what will happen. There will be chaos and instability, and everybody will suffer," he added.