India’s PM Narendra Modi has urged critics of the contentious citizenship bill to stay civilized, lashing out against rioters who damaged public property and again warning citizens against falling for rumors and misinformation.
“People who damaged public property and were involved in violence in the name of protests in Uttar Pradesh should ask themselves if what they did was right. They destroyed buses and public property that belongs to the future generation,” Modi said in his address at the foundation-laying ceremony of the Atal Bihari Medical University in Lucknow.
I want to tell every resident of Uttar Pradesh that after Independence, we only insisted on our rights. But the time has come to also put emphasis on our duties.
“Better roads, transport and sewers are our rights, and it’s our duty to protect it. Quality education is our right but safety of educational institutions and respect for teachers is our duty. Secure atmosphere is our right, but it’s also duty of citizens to respect the work of police,” he said, praising local police for doing a “good job.”
The Uttar Pradesh administration earlier promised to slap rioters with fines, estimating the damage inflicted on public and state property at over $14 million. Rallies across the state turned especially violent, resulting in at least 18 casualties out of a nationwide death toll of 25. Accused of using excessive force, police claim they’ve only resorted to live fire in rare cases of self-defense, when overwhelmed by violent protesters.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the bill that sparked nationwide rallies, fast-tracks naturalization to religious minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh – but doesn’t extend to Muslims.
Critics claim that the new measures are discriminatory, stoking fears that Muslims would be rounded up and sent to detention centers, especially since, aside from that, the government also plans to compile a National Register of Citizens to tally up illegal immigrants on Indian soil.
New Delhi strongly rejects the criticisms, insisting that its move instead actually demonstrates “a culture of compassion” towards persecuted minorities, and won’t affect India’s Muslims in any way.