Indian lawmakers scuffle over citizenship riots where 41 died

Protesters say resident law excluding Muslims is discriminatory, could leave them stateless. (AP pic)

NEW DELHI: Indian lawmakers pushed and shoved each other in parliament on Monday after opposition parties demanded the resignation of interior minister Amit Shah over the handling of deadly riots triggered by a citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

Police said on Monday that at least 41 people had died in two days of Hindu-Muslim clashes in New Delhi last week, the worst communal riots in the capital in decades.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party says the law, which grants refuge to non-Muslim minorities from across south Asia, is required to protect those groups from persecution.

Critics say it is discriminatory and contravenes the spirit of India’s secular constitution.

Hundreds of thousands of people – led by students and Muslim groups – have been demonstrating for more than two months, amid fears that the government will also launch a population register that could leave many Muslims stateless.

A week ago, a mob of several hundred people chanting Hindu nationalist slogans torched two mosques and dozens of Muslim houses, eyewitnesses said, while nearby houses carrying Hindu symbols were left untouched.

In parliament on Monday, opposition legislators shouted slogans and waved posters demanding that Shah, who controls Delhi’s police and is a key ally of Modi’s, step down.

In Shiv Vihar, a low-income area in northeast Delhi where some of the worst violence took place, hundreds of paramilitary police patrolled deserted lanes.

“There has been a big improvement in the situation,” Delhi’s chief of police S.N. Srivastava said while touring the area, littered with burnt-out vehicles and schoolbooks. “The primary focus is to restore confidence among the people.”

But there was anger from those affected.

“The police took us to another area but didn’t even ask how we were,” said Mohammed Uddin, 70, whose home was burnt by the mob. “I don’t even have clothes.”