More than 1,500 protesters have been arrested across India in the past 10 days, officials said on Saturday (December 21), as police try to quell sometimes violent demonstrations against a citizenship law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution.
Additionally, some 4,000 people have been detained and then released, the officials said. Those arrested and detained had been resorting to violence during the protests.
At least 19 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters since parliament passed the law on Dec. 11, out of which 15 were killed in India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh state. Critics of the law say it discriminates against Muslims and threatens India’s secular ethos because it makes religion a criteria for citizenship.
The law aims to grant citizenship to minorities of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Jain and Parsi faiths from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, deemed as suffering persecution there. The applicant should have entered India on or before Dec. 31, 2014.
Demonstrations continued on Saturday despite curfews and tough measures aimed at shutting down the protests.
More demonstrations were planned in several parts of the country, including in the northeastern state of Assam. Resentment against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has simmered for years in Assam, one of India’s poorest states, where some residents accuse outsiders, Hindus or Muslims, of stealing jobs and land.