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Protests Continue in India over Citizenship Law

Indians hold national flags and placards during a protest organized by several Muslim organizations against a new citizenship law that opponents say threatens India's secular identity in Bangalore, India, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Protests Continue in India over Citizenship Law
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Thousands of people protested in several Indian cities Monday to oppose a new citizenship law.

The law, recently passed by parliament, makes it easier for non-Muslim minorities from some neighboring countries to seek Indian citizenship.

About 2,000 people held a protest in New Delhi by India’s main opposition National Congress party. Demonstrators gathered at the Raj Ghat, a memorial for the country’s former political leader and activist Mahatma Gandhi.

The Congress party demanded “protection for the constitution and the rights of people enshrined in it.” Large protests were held in other areas as well, including the southern cities of Bangalore and Kochi.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in demonstrations against the law since parliament approved it earlier this month. At least 23 people have been killed in protest-related violence.

No violence was reported during Monday’s demonstrations.

The law seeks to give Indian citizenship to Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and other minorities who fled Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to escape mistreatment based on religion. Muslims are not covered by the law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government introduced the bill after an election victory in May. Modi has said the law is designed to ease the suffering of many people who have faced unfair treatment in India for years.

Critics of the measure say it is the latest effort by Modi’s government to marginalize the country’s 200 million Muslims.

In a speech Sunday, Modi defended the legislation. He accused the opposition of spreading fear about the law. Modi said Muslims “don’t need to worry at all” about the law.

His ruling BJP party also released a video on social media. The BJP said the video was aimed at clearing up several “myths” about the law. One part of the video shows two men in traditional Muslim clothing discussing the legislation and stating that the country can only progress if there is "peace and brotherhood."

The government has suggested that the new law would be followed by a national citizenship register. This would require Muslims to prove they were original residents of India to receive citizenship consideration. Many Muslims fear such a registry could leave them stateless.

Modi’s party placed a new advertisement about the law in major newspapers. The ad stated that there were no immediate plans to bring a nationwide register of citizens. It added that even if the register were put in place, "the guidelines would be framed such that no Indian citizen would face any harassment whatsoever."

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

enshrine v. contain or keep in a place

marginalize v. to put or keep (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group

mythn. an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true

originaladj. happening or existing first or at the beginning

frame v. carefully plan or organize ideas

harassment n. behavior that annoys or troubles someone