Internet cut and curfews imposed as India protests rage

After more deaths on Thursday, authorities took steps to cut communications and ban protests

Authorities shut down the internet in parts of northern India on Friday and imposed a curfew in a southern city after several people were killed in clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters angered by a citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims.

Protests have spread across India since the Hindu nationalist government pushed the new law through parliament last week, marking the strongest show of dissent since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014.

Abdul Jalil, 49, and Samshir Kudroli, 23, were shot dead in Mangalore, said Qadir Shah, a spokesman for the deputy commissioner of the southern city.

A police spokesman said 20 officers were injured in the clashes in Mangaluru, and a curfew had been imposed there until midnight on December 22.

"Police forces are deployed across the city and the law and order situation right now is quite peaceful and everything is under control," said police spokesman Guru Kamat.

In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, and one which has been a tinder-box for communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims, authorities ordered mobile internet and text messaging services in seven districts to be taken down until Saturday.

In this photo taken on December 19, 2019 police beat protesters with sticks during a demonstration against India's new citizenship law in Lucknow. Indians defied bans on assembly on December 19 in cities nationwide as anger swells against a citizenship law seen as discriminatory against Muslims, following days of protests, clashes and riots that have left six dead.
 / AFP / STR

A police official in Lucknow said another protester was killed but did not say how or give other details.

Awanish Kumar Awasthi, the state official issuing the order, said the move was aimed at preventing the spread of inflammatory material that could worsen the law and order situation. Police in Uttar Pradesh also detained around 100 suspected troublemakers.

In New Delhi, police put extra security around Jama Masjid, one of the country's largest mosques, ahead of Friday prayers.

In this Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, file photo, a passenger bus goes up in flames during a protest against Citizenship Amendment Act in New Delhi, India. Protests have been continuing over a new law that grants Indian citizenship based on religion and excludes Muslims. (AP Photo/File)

And the women's wing of the main opposition Congress party demonstrated outside the home of Home Minister Amit Shah who is leading the change in citizenship law that sets religion as one of the criteria for granting citizenship for the first time.

The new law 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 the award of citizenship based on religion undermines India's secular constitution.

Opponents see the law as the latest step by Modi's government to marginalise Muslims, who make up 14 per cent of India’s population.

The government says the law is aimed at helping religious minorities facing persecution in the largely Muslim neighbouring countries.

Some of the most violent protests have been in Assam, a northeast state bordering Bangladesh.

Assamese people are angered by the encouragement being given to immigrants, regardless of their religion.