Two persons were killed in police firing in Mangaluru on Thursday as protesters across the country took to the streets against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), which in combination could potentially introduce a religious test for citizenship in India.
Police in the coastal city of Mangaluru lathi-charged and later opened fire at protesters they claimed were trying to set fire to a police station and had targeted police personnel in Bunder area.
The police said the exact cause of death of Nausin, 23, and Jalil Kudroli, 49, would be known only after post-mortem examination. The two, who were injured in the violence, died in hospital.
Mobile Internet data service has been suspended in the entire Dakshina Kannada district for two days “to prevent misuse of social media platform”, police said. Curfew has been clamped in the Mangaluru City Police Commissionerate area till December 22 midnight, and all educational institutions will remain shut.
Elsewhere across the country, marchers thronged cities, defying prohibitory orders in many places and braving police crackdowns in areas under BJP rule.
People from various backgrounds, across age groups and professions came together in response to calls given by civil society groups and opposition parties, in Mumbai, Kolkata, Jammu, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Patna, and several other towns.
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In Lucknow, a man died of an alleged firearm injury as protests turned violent, leading to the arrest of at least 55 persons and the shutdown of Internet in the State capital. More than two dozen vehicles, including a State bus, TV broadcast vans and police vehicles, were torched at different locations as parts of old Lucknow witnessed chaotic scenes.
Thousands gathered at Mumbai’s August Kranti Maidan and raised slogans, displayed placards, sported painted faces, sang songs and played music. There were repeated announcements throughout the rally to keep things peaceful. Former IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan and actor Sushant Singh took part in the Mumbai protest.
Kolkata witnessed five rallies, of which the one held without the support of political parties drew no less than 20,000 people. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has dared the Modi government to go for a UN-monitored referendum on the contentious issue.
In the national capital, the police — which is under the Union Home Ministry — detained people from various locations and thwarted a demonstration. Mobile phone and Internet services were cut in parts of the city and 19 stations of the Metro Rail in central Delhi were shut but hundreds managed to assemble at Jantar Mantar, an earshot from the parliament building. Around 700 flights were delayed and 20 were cancelled in Delhi.
The CAA, passed by Parliament recently, offers a route to citizenship for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, while the NRC, according to Home Minister Amit Shah, will identify and remove “infiltrators”.
An unsigned note circulated by a Central government functionary around noon said when the NRC is rolled out, people will be able to use existing documents to establish citizenship. However, there was no formal announcement from the government regarding concerns raised in the rallies across the country that the hand of the new citizenship regime will be heavy on Muslims and poor people who are unlikely to possess documents.
In Mumbai, actor Sushant Singh, who was removed by television show Savdhan India for his position on the CAA-NRC, said, “I must thank the students of this country for letting us know that India’s blood hasn’t cooled yet.”
Historian Ramachandra Guha was among the people detained in Bengaluru.
Smaller cities in Karnataka, particularly Kalaburagi in North Karnataka, witnessed huge turnout for several protests.
In Lucknow Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said protesters who damaged public property will be forced to pay for it.
“No protest can take place without permission,” he told news agency ANI.
Several policemen including an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) were injured in heavy stone pelting when a march turned violent in Shah-e-Alam area of Ahmedabad.
Expressing solidarity with the nation-wide protests, students and various organisations took to the streets across Kerala, even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan warned the Centre against using force to crush democratic and peaceful means of protest.