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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: There was panic in parts of the Indian capital on Thursday when a gunman fired at a rally marking the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
The incident took place outside Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university, where people had gathered to peacefully protest India’s new citizenship law as well as to commemorate Gandhi. The gunman posted live footage on Facebook as he fired his weapon, injuring one student.
Hundreds of students poured onto the streets of New Delhi immediately after the attack to demonstrate against what they called an “attempt to muzzle the democratic voice.”
India has been rocked by protests since December, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes religion the sole criteria of Indian citizenship and has been widely seen as anti-Muslim.
The shooting followed provocative statements by figures from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against protesters, particularly Muslim ones.
Anurag Thakur, junior minister for finance, on Monday called on people “to fire at those traitors who are protesting.”
BJP lawmaker Parvesh Verma on Tuesday called Muslim protesters in the capital “rapists” and asked people to “kill them.”
“(They) will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughter, kill them,” he said.
The Election Commission ordered both politicians to suspend campaigning activity for three days, ahead of upcoming elections in the capital.
“It was an unprovoked firing and the police who were present in large numbers just remained mute spectators and did not attempt to stop the guy,” students told the New-Delhi based NDTV channel.
Local authorities suspended services at three metro stations near the university to prevent escalation.
Marches on the anniversary of Gandhi’s death, known as Martyrs’ Day, took place in several parts of the country.
The Movement for People’s Unity and Struggle, which comprises more than 100 civil society groups, organized human chains across India “to send the message of unity” and “spread the ongoing protests against the citizenship legislation to wider sections of the society.”
One of the human chains was formed near Gandhi’s resting place.
Under the CAA, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities from neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are eligible to become citizens, if they came to India before Dec. 31, 2014. Muslims are not included.
Modi on Tuesday said the legislation had been brought in “to correct historical injustices and it is an attempt to fulfill the old promises made to religious minorities in the neighboring countries.”
Opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi took part in a march in the south Indian city of Wayanad on Thursday. He demanded to know who had given Modi “the license” to decide whether he was Indian or not.
“I know I am an Indian and I don’t have to prove it to anyone,” he said. “There are 1.3 billion Indians who don’t have to prove that they are Indians”
Social activist Kavita Krishnan said that to remember Gandhi was to also remember who had killed him. “His killer represented an ideology that is ruling India today, so the threat that the BJP leaders are giving to protesters today are part of the militant majoritarian agenda that Gandhi’s killer Godse represented,” she told Arab News. “We don’t expect anything from the government or the Supreme Court. The fight is to awaken India about the danger that the country is facing today,” Krishnan said, adding that the new citizenship legislation was not only an attempt to disenfranchise Muslims” but a threat to disenfranchise “anybody” who opposed the government.
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