Indian citizenship law protest hit highest casuality figure

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There were standoffs at police barricades in half a dozen towns in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which has long been a tinderbox of communal tensions between majority Hindus and minority Muslims.

At least six people died and 32 were injured in clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters, Uttar Pradesh police chief O.P. Singh told Reuters, making Friday the single deadliest day of the protests so far.

Singh said that none of the deaths on Friday were due to police shooting, and 144 people were arrested. With the latest fatalities, the total number of deaths during the nationwide demonstrations, now in their second week, stands at 13.

The backlash against the law pushed through parliament by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Dec. 11 marks the strongest show of dissent since he was first elected in 2014.

The legislation makes it easier for people from non-Muslim minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who settled in India prior to 2015 to obtain Indian citizenship.

Critics say the exclusion of Muslims is discriminatory and that the award of citizenship based on religion undermines the constitution.

In New Delhi’s Daryaganj area, a commercial thoroughfare in the capital with many banks, shops and cafes, police fired a water cannon to disperse crowds of some 6,000 protesters, an official said.

Police detained 34 people in the area, said Adil Amaan, a lawyer who tried unsuccessfully to negotiate their release.

“Please call my mother, please call my mother,” one injured protester lying on a pavement begged, as police surrounded him.

Authorities were unable to immediately confirm the number of people injured in the clash in Daryaganj.

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