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Protests Over India’s Citizenship Law Continue After Violent Police Crackdown

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  • Massive protests have spread all over India after a controversial citizenship bill became law.
  • The law gives citizenship to religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from specific countries but does not include Muslims. 
  • On Sunday, a peaceful protest at a primarily Muslim university became violent when police forcefully entered the campus, beating students with wooden sticks and firing tear gas.
  • Protests continued across India Monday, with large demonstrations being held in solidarity with university students who were attacked by police the day before.

Controversial Citizenship Bill Prompts Protests

Huge protests have continued to spread all over India after the country’s government approved a controversial citizenship bill last week.

The legislation, known as Citizenship Amendment Bill, provides a path to citizenship for religious minorities who illegally immigrated to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The legislation names six religions that would be eligible for citizenship but does not include Muslims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other supporters of the bill have said it will protect persecuted religious minorities who migrate to India from predominantly Muslim countries.

Opponents of the bill have said that it is just a very targeted plan by Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, to discriminate against the nearly 200 million Muslims in India who compose about 15% of the country’s population.

Many have argued that it would make it easier for the government to jail and deport Muslim residents in India.

This could include those whose families have lived in the country for years or even generations but might not have proof of citizenship, which in turn could leave millions of Muslims in India stateless.

Other critics of the legislation, including legal scholars, have said that it would violate India’s constitution because India is a secular country, and its constitution says that all religions must be treated equally.

Protests Grow

Last Monday, India’s lower house of Parliament passed the bill, prompting a number of small, but largely peaceful, protests.

Those protests, however, have grown dramatically in the last week after the upper house of Parliament passed the bill Wednesday. The next day, India’s president approved the bill, officially making it a law.

Following the approval of the legislation, demonstrations erupted in several northeastern cities where the law could potentially have the biggest impact on immigration.

The Indian government responded by shutting down the internet and deploying troops in several areas in the region. Since then, the protests have continued, growing and spreading to major cities and other areas all over India. 

At the same time, police significantly ratcheting up the use of violence against the protestors.

According to reports, police said Sunday that at least six people were killed and more than a hundred were injured in protests in the northeastern state of Assam.

Police Attack Student Protestors at Muslim-Majority University

Also on Sunday, hundreds were injured when a protest turned violent at Jamia Millia Islamia, a primarily Muslim university in New Delhi.

According to reports, students organized a large demonstration that many witnesses said started out peacefully. 

The protest escalated when police stormed the campus after nearby busses and vehicles were set on fire. University authorities said the students did not burn the vehicles. 

Videos circulated on social media showing officers beating students with wooden sticks and firing tear gas at them. Police also could be seen chasing students into the library and bathrooms, where they reportedly continued to beat them.

The police allegedly fired tear gas into the library and other enclosed areas like classrooms and reportedly attacked a mosque where some students were praying

One widely circulated video showed a man who tried to escape police by running into a women’s hostel being dragged out and beat by the police forces.

In the video, a group of female students can be seen trying to fight off the police who continue to hit the man and poke at the women with wooden poles, even after the man had been beaten to the ground.

Officials at nearby hospitals said that more than 100 people were brought in after the violence, and it has been reported that nearly 100 students were detained.

University officials condemned police, saying that they had entered the campus by force and without permission. The university’s vice-chancellor also told reporters that they would be filing a court case against the police.

But Delhi police have defended their actions, claiming they responded to violence started by the students.

Police also reportedly used similar tactics on Sunday at Aligarh Muslim University, another primarily Muslim college, where dozens of officers forcefully entered the campus and attacked students with batons and tear gas.

Response

Despite the violence the day before, protests continued in India Monday, with large demonstrations being held in a number of major cities in solidarity with the university students who were attacked by the police.

As the protests continued, Modi took to Twitter to call for calm.

“Violent protests on the Citizenship Amendment Act are unfortunate and deeply distressing,” he wrote. “Debate, discussion and dissent are essential parts of democracy but, never has damage to public property and disturbance of normal life been a part of our ethos.”

Modi also argued that the citizenship law “illustrates India’s centuries old culture of acceptance, harmony, compassion and brotherhood,” and described the protestors as “vested interest groups” who were trying “to divide us and create disturbance.”

On the other side, Amnesty International India issued a statement urging the Indian government to “respect the right to dissent” by the students, and also investigate the allegations of police brutality.

“Students have the right to protest. Violence against peacefully protesting students cannot under any circumstance be justified,” the statement said. “Allegations that the police brutally beat up and sexually harassed students in Jamia Millia Islamia University must be investigated.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)

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Thousands Protest in Russia Demanding Release of Putin Foe Alexei Navalny

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  • Russia faced some of the largest protests it has seen in recent years after thousands took to the streets Saturday demanding the government release opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • Russian authorities declared the protests illegal and detained more than 3,500 people from more than 100 cities, including Navalny’s wife.
  • The government also released a statement addressing Navalny by name for the first time, attempting to discredit claims he has made, including the idea that President Vladimir Putin has a billion-dollar villa on the Black Sea coast.

Largest Russian Protests in Recent History

Russia experienced some of its largest protests in years Saturday after opposition figure Alexei Navalny called for demonstrations to be held following his arrest.

Supporters demanded Navalny’s release but also called for an end to perceived rampant corruption in the Russian state.

Tens of thousands took to the streets and clashed with police in more than 100 cities, with independent monitors claiming that 3,500 people were detained by police. Among those detained was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, who was targeted by authorities during the protests. She is reported to have been released by Russian media agencies such as TASS.

Despite Russian authorities declaring the protests illegal and warning of repercussions for those who attend, the protests managed to reach a wide range of people. According to the New York Times, over ⅓ of protesters in Moscow said they had never protested before.

Despite the movements current popularity, it may be difficult to turn the popular, anti-Putin movement into something more.The protesters span a broad range of the political spectrum, from far-left communist and anarchist groups to nationalists and libertarians, meaning that while they dislike Putin and the corruption in the Russian government, they agree on little else.

Changing the Message

The protests unveiled a new shift in how Russian authorities deal with Navalny. In the past, authorities and state-backed media never mentioned him by name in order to downplay him; however, that changed this weekend.

Newscasters aired multiple programs to discredit him and paint him as a tool of the West, while Putin denied Navalny’s claims that he has a secret, billion-dollar villa on the coast of the Black Sea. Based on his salary of $133,000 a year, Putin would only be able to afford a single home in Russia. However, there is speculation that due to corruption and embezzling, Putin is likely the actual richest person alive.

Regarding Navalny himself, he’s still in jail pending court proceedings on Feb. 2. If those go poorly for Navalny, he could be in prison until the mid-2020s, but he is more concerned about his immediate future.

In a video to supporters prior to the protests, he made it clear that he has no intention of committing suicide. That statement was likely made due to the fact that many Russian dissidents seem to die via suicide, with much speculation about whether or not that was actually the case.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Business Insider) (Associated Press)

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Some Flyers Are Forging Old COVID-19 Tests To Travel

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  • As a number of countries and airlines impose rules requiring negative COVID tests up to 72 before flights, more and more people have been forging old tests to make them look new.
  • In a recent report from Vice’s Motherboard, two anonymous men detailed how they forged documents to avoid having to pay for new ones.
  • “Fun fact, the document was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but [airport officials] didn’t see a problem in that,” one man told Motherboard. 

Forging Old COVID-19 Tests

Many countries are now requiring flyers to present negative COVID-19 tests no more than 72 hours before they board planes; however, some people are reportedly forging their test results to get around the restrictions. 

According to Vice’s Motherboard, one anonymous individual used Photoshop to change the date of several of his friends’ older coronavirus tests. 

“Fun fact, the document was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but [airport officials] didn’t see a problem in that,” the man told the outlet. 

Another person told Motherboard that he had changed the date of an old test result using Microsoft Paint in order to travel to Southern Europe for vacation.

Situations like this in Europe are not completely new.

“We needed a COVID-19 test for a family member and I spoke to one travel agent and he said, ‘Get it done and even if it comes out positive we will provide a negative one for you for £50’,” one person told The Sun in October.

While those people seemingly got away with potential forgery crimes, others haven’t.

Last week, it was reported that 45 people were caught trying to enter Croatia with fake COVID tests. Notably, they could each face up to three years in prison for forging documents. 

Earlier this month, a 17-year-old Dutch girl was also caught with a forged COVID test while trying to escape quarantine in Switzerland. 

Why Are People Forging Documents?

Part of the reason people are forging old COVID-19 tests may be to keep from being barred if a new test comes back positive; however, there also appears to be at least one other major reason: money.

Right now, tests in most European countries are free, but that’s not the case for people trying to go on vacation. 

In fact, people traveling for leisure have been warned not to use free COVID-19 testing services to meet flight demands. Instead, they are required to pay out of pocket to have their test sent to a private company. 

See what others are saying: (Motherboard) (The Independent) (TravelPulse)

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Russia Orders Social Media Sites To Block Calls for Navalny Protests

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  • Shortly after his arrest on Sunday, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for protests to take place on Jan. 23 and was met with a wave of support online.
  • In response, the government ordered tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and Russian-centric VK to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”
  • TikTok has already deleted 38% of posts with such calls while VK and YouTube have deleted 50%, and Instagram has removed 17%.

Navalny Calls for Protests

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s return to Russia and subsequent arrest earlier this week has set off a chain of events in the country.

Since his arrest, Navalny has called for protests to occur on Jan. 23. Now, Russian authorities are taking precautions and arresting his allies in an effort to slow down the momentum of the looming demonstrations. Among their many demands are that Navalny be released.

Throughout the week, thousands of posts shared by younger Russians have raged across social media asking that people partake in the protests. The reach of those posts, however, have been curtailed by the government.

Social media tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, and the Russian-centric VK were ordered by the Russian government to “block all publications with calls to demonstrate on the 23rd.”

Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications watchdog, later stated, “Internet sites will be brought to administrative responsibility in connection with the dissemination of information prohibited by law and aimed at attracting minors to participate in unauthorized mass public events.”

“Participation in such events is in violation of the established procedure, including in a pandemic, and carries risks of harm to life and health,” it added.

Censorship Payoff Unknown

For many of the sites, which are often seen as a way to promote free speech in regimes that are far more restrictive, the order puts them in an awkward position. Still, many have already complied, at least to some extend.

According to Roskomnadzor, Tiktok has deleted 38% of videos calling for minors to attend the protests. VK and YouTube have both deleted 50% of similar posts, while Instagram has removed 17% of posts that violate the regulations.

It’s unclear to what extent this censorship will have on stopping Russians from attending tomorrow’s protests; however, some of the nation’s largest protests in modern history have been organized by Navalny.

See what others are saying: (Moscow Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)

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