Modi blames opposition for violent protests against India’s new citizenship law

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Has India's Narendra Modi gone too far with controversial new citizenship law?

Modi blames opposition for violent protests against India’s new citizenship law

Modi was addressing a crowd of hundreds of supporters in New Delhi to kick off the campaign for the Delhi Assembly election in 2020.

The speech came after 22 people died in nationwide protests against the controversial new law that parliament cleared on December 11.

The Prime Minister repeated his often-used phrase “unity in diversity is India’s character.” He blamed Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party for a number of issues, including poor transport and water conditions, before speaking about the contested Citizenship Amendment Act.

“You have seen how these people are pushing their own interests,” he said. “The statements given, the false videos, inciting, people sitting at a high level have committed the crime of spreading confusion and fire by putting it on social media.”

Modi said refugees in India will benefit from the new law, because it will provide security to people who came to the country to escape religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Has India's Narendra Modi gone too far with controversial new citizenship law?

However, critics of the law claim it discriminates against Muslims because while it fast-tracks citizenship for religious minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from the three countries, Muslims are not included.

The Prime Minister, whose Bharatiya Janata Party was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this year, has dominated Indian politics since first sweeping to power in 2014. While he has been hailed for his efforts to bring prosperity to poorer regions and root out corruption, his emphasis on empowering India’s Hindu majority has raised concerns among its Muslim minority.

India citizenship law protests leave 22 dead

Following the violence, police in India Uttar Pradesh state have enforced a law banning public gatherings of four or more people for the next 15 days.

The colonial-era restrictions — known as Section 144 — were going to be imposed across the entire state, Avnish Awasthi, senior official in the Uttar Pradesh Home Department, told CNN.

Authorities in multiple regions, including in parts of the capital New Delhi, cut phone and internet services amid the protests.

CNN’s Ivana Kottasová and Tara John contributed to this article.

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