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Police clear citizenship law protest site in Indian capital, citing virus lockdown

Police detain a youth as he argues with them after they cleared the site of a long-running protest against a new citizenship law, following a lockdown by Delhi state government to limit the spreading of the new coronavirus, in Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi, India, on March 24, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Police have cleared out a long-running protest against a controversial citizenship law in the Indian capital, New Delhi, citing the a recently-announced lockdown to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Dozens of protesters, many of them women, have been engaged in a protest sit-in since early December last year on a street in the capital’s Shaheen Bagh neighborhood, which has become a major hotspot for opposition to the law, seen by many as discriminatory toward Muslims.

Hundreds of police forces in riot gear surrounded the protesters early on Tuesday and told them to leave, said Delhi’s joint police commissioner, DC Srivastava.

“It is a dangerous environment, with this coronavirus, we urged them to leave,” he told reporters.

Police said around 50 people were removed from the site. Some demonstrators refused to cooperate, and at least nine people were detained, six of whom were women, Srivastava said, adding there was no violence.

Police bulldozers were filmed taking down tents and billboards at the protest site.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA, grants fast-track citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from three neighboring countries. The law is supported by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Weeks of protests against the law, which was passed in December last year, have resulted in 13 deaths and dozens of injuries, mainly during violent clashes between the supporters and opponents of the CAA last month.

The opponents of the law, including India’s Muslim minority, say it runs counter to the nation’s secular constitution. The ruling BJP, led by Modi, denies any bias against India’s 180 million Muslims.

Meanwhile, more than 500 infection cases and 10 deaths from the new coronavirus have been recorded in India.

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