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Two killed as Indian police open fire on citizenship bill protest

Hundreds of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 December, 2019

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Police shot and killed two protesters as thousands protested against legislation that would grant citizenship to non-Muslims who migrated from neighboring countries.

Police shot and killed at least two people in north-eastern India on Thursday during a demonstration against a new citizenship bill, medics said.

The pair were among a large group being treated for various wounds after police opened fire at a crowd, Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, told AFP.

"A few of those people were brought in with bullet injuries. Two of those 21 people have died," he said.

Hundreds of protesters defied the curfew in Gauhati, the state capital of Assam, and burned tires before police dispersed them.

They later regrouped and lit bonfires and blocked streets.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, passed by lawmakers on Wednesday, allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

The protesters in Assam oppose the legislation out of concern that migrants will move to the border region and dilute the culture and political sway of those who already live there.

The legislation was passed by parliament on Wednesday and now needs to be signed by the country's ceremonial president, a formality, before becoming law.

Protesters uprooted telephone poles, burned several buses and other vehicles and also attacked homes of officials from the governing Hindu nationalist party and the regional group Assam Gana Parishad, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh because of religious persecution before 2015.

It does not, however, extend to Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar.

The bill's passage follows a contentious citizenship registry exercise in Assam intended to identify legal residents and weed out those in the country illegally. 

Nearly 2 million people in Assam were excluded from the list - about half Hindus and the other half Muslims - and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be rendered stateless.

India is constructing a detention centre for some of the tens of thousands the courts are expected to ultimately determine came to the country illegally.

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