India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to ignore popular concerns over a new citizenship law, an opposition leader said on Saturday.
The comment is coming just as thousands joined rallies in protest against the legislation.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, allows Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian and Parsi immigrants from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries to avail of fast-track citizenship.
Critics say it goes against India’s secular constitution and attempts to marginalize Muslims, although Hindu nationalist BJP rejects this.
Students, civil society groups, the Muslim community and opposition parties have been holding countrywide demonstrations demanding a rollback or change in the law.
The country’s main opposition Indian National Congress party held what it called “Save India, Save the Constitution” rallies in several cities including Mumbai, Lucknow and Guwahati on Saturday.
“In Assam, youths are protesting, in other states protests are happening as well. Why do you have to shoot and kill them? BJP doesn’t want to listen to the voice of the people,” Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said at a rally in Guwahati
Guwahati is the main city in India’s north-eastern Assam state which saw the first outbreak of protests against the citizenship law.
While the protests countrywide have been mostly peaceful, they turned violent on occasions mainly in Assam and Uttar Pradesh leading to the death of 25 people.
In Tamil Nadu state capital Chennai, at least 10,000 people joined a protest march organized by a Muslim organization, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, NDTV news channel reported.
The BJP prime minister, Narendra Modi, argues that the citizenship law does not impact Muslim citizens and has accused the opposition of spreading lies.