Police clear longtime India protest site opposing citizenship law

March 24 (UPI) — Citing the coronavirus pandemic, police in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Tuesday cleared out a long-running protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

New Delhi Police said around 50 people were removed from a site in the city’s Muslim-majority Shaheen Bagh district, where they had been encamped for 100 days protesting against the law.

The law, supported by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, grants fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from three neighboring countries. Opponents, including India’s Muslim minority, say it runs counter to the nation’s secular constitution.

The law has been the subject of violent clashes in New Delhi since its introduction last year. Thirteen people were killed and dozens injured last month in fights between supporters and opponents of the CAA.

Authorities said the crackdown in Shaheen Bagh was taken in accordance with a government-ordered lockdown to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. More than 500 cases have been recorded in India and 10 deaths, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

“People at the protest site in Shaheen Bagh were requested to clear the site as lockdown has been imposed,” New Delhi Police said. “But after they refused, action was taken against violators as the assembly was unlawful. Protest site has been cleared. Some protesters have been detained.”

A police official said nine protesters, including six women, were arrested.

The long-running protest was led by Muslim women and joined by others supporting their cause.

Several other protest sites in New Delhi were also cleared by police on Monday.

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