Deadly protests jolt northern India amid widespread anger over legislation deemed discriminatory by critics.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has criticised India’s new citizenship law, which is seen as discriminatory against Muslims and has sparked deadly protests across the South Asian country.
“People are dying because of this law. Why is there a necessity to do this when all the while, for 70 years, they have lived together as citizens without any problem?” he asked.
The CAA makes it easier for “persecuted” minorities from three neighbouring countries to get citizenship but not if they are Muslims.
The law has stoked fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remould India as a Hindu nation and marginalise its 200 million Muslims, who form nearly 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population.
“I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state now is taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship,” said the 94-year-old leader.
“If we do that here, I do not know what will happen. There will be chaos and instability, and everybody will suffer.”
Mahathir’s comments came amid deadly protests in India over the CAA, in which at least 20 people have been killed so far, including nearly a dozen on Friday.
“People are dying because of this law. pic.twitter.com/9ZEkwNXM3E
— Ted Regencia تِد (@tedregencia) December 20, 2019
India on Saturday rejected Mahathir’s remarks, calling them “factually inaccurate”.
A statement by India’s foreign ministry said the citizenship law “doesn’t impact the status of any Indian citizen or deprive any Indian of any faith of her or his citizenship”.
“The Malaysian Prime Minister’s remark is factually inaccurate. We call upon Malaysia to refrain from commenting on internal developments in India, without the right understanding of facts,” it said.
Meanwhile, tensions prevailed throughout the country as authorities suspended internet and banned public gatherings in some regions.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, at least 11 people died on Friday while another death was reported on Saturday.
India’s capital New Delhi witnessed street battles on Friday evening with police firing a water cannon, baton-charging protesters and arresting dozens of people.
Thousands of people in a Muslim-dominated district of the capital marched after Friday prayers, some carrying a huge Indian flag, raising slogans against the Modi government.
More protests continue to be organised in various Indian cities.
With additional reporting by Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur