India’s Supreme Court delays hearing citizenship law pleas

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s Supreme Court yesterday postponed hearing pleas challenging the constitutionality of a new citizenship law that has sparked opposition and massive protests across the country. The court said it would consider the pleas on January 22.

Protests and widespread condemnation have been growing against the Citizenship Amendment Act, with demonstrations erupting in India over the last week.

Its passage last week follows a contentious citizenship registry process in northeastern India’s Assam state intended to weed out people who entered the country illegally.

Nearly two million people in Assam were excluded from the list, and have been asked to prove their citizenship or else be considered foreign. India is building a detention centre for some of the tens of thousands of people the courts are expected to ultimately determine have entered illegally. Its passage also came as an unprecedented crackdown continued in Kashmir. Since then, movement and communications have been restricted in the region.

University students across India have been leading a campaign to have the citizenship law overturned.

Last Sunday, marches by students at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh descended into chaos when police fired tear gas and beat unarmed protesters with wooden sticks.

Scores of students were injured. Police said they acted with restraint. The police response to the protests has drawn widespread condemnation.

It has also sparked a broader movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Demonstrations have erupted across the country, with thousands rallying in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states on Tuesday.

Indian students take part in a protest rally against a new citizenship law at Osmania University campus in Hyderabad. PHOTO: AP