India’s ruling BJP party has lost a key regional election in voting that took place during widespread protests against a new citizenship law.
Critics have said the law is the latest effort by Narendra Modi’s government to marginalise India’s Muslim population.
In eastern Jharkhand state, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lost power to an alliance made up of the opposition Congress party and powerful regional groups.
The election was held amid often violent protests calling for the revocation of the law, which is designed to offer citizenship to people of various religions who have fled to India from some neighbouring predominantly Muslim countries, as long as they are not Islamic.
Jharkhand is predominantly Hindu but the state has a smaller proportion of Hindus than the country as a whole and a significant number of people from a tribal background.
It comes as a German physics student at a Madras university was told he had to leave India after taking part in protests just over a week ago.
Jakob Lindenthal was photographed holding placards with slogans like “1933-1945 We Have Been There” and Uniformed Criminals = Criminals”.
He told India Today he was joining the protest “in solidarity and for human rights” but on Monday was asked to leave India by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, the news outlet reported.
Two of the Congress party’s principal figures were reportedly stopped by police from entering a city to meet the families of several people killed in the protests last week.
Rahul Ghandi, the former Congress leader, and his sister Priyanka, Congress’s general secretary in Uttar Pradesh, were told by officers they couldn’t enter Meerut as there was a ban on large gatherings, according to NDTV.
Meerut police said the Congress leaders were told that if there was any breach of peace as a result of their visit, they would be personally liable, NDTV reported.
“After this, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi turned back on their own,” said a Meerut police statement.
The US, meanwhile, has told its citizens to exercise caution when travelling to Uttar Pradesh, a central state where many protests have been held.
Twenty-three people have died across the country since the citizenship law was passed in parliament earlier this month, with tens of thousands coming out on to the streets to demonstrate.
Most of the deaths have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, where 20% of the state’s 200 million people are Muslim.
On Monday, nearly 2,000 people joined a silent protest at a memorial in New Delhi to Mahatma Gandhi, India’s independence leader, despite a ban on gatherings.
Another area hit by protests on Tuesday was Kolkata, as the Delhi demonstrations continued.
Also on Tuesday, politicians were planning to hold rallies in favour of the legislation in western Gujarat and eastern Kolkata state.
Authorities have taken a hard-line approach to the protests.
They’ve employed a British colonial-era law banning public gatherings, and have blocked the internet in some states. Broadcasters have be asked not to use content that could inflame further violence.
Author: Philip Whiteside
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