• Friday, Feb 21, 2020
  • Last Update : 08:38 pm

India marks Republic Day with protests, blasts

  • Published at 07:52 pm January 26th, 2020
India Protest
Demonstrators attend Republic Day celebrations at the protest site against a new citizenship law in Shaheen Bagh, area of New Delhi, India on Sunday, January 26, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

The protests, which began last month, gathered fresh momentum as India celebrated Republic Day, in commemoration of the day the Indian constitution came into effect

Hundreds of thousands of Indians protested across the country on Sunday against a citizenship bill that many fear is discriminatory against the minority Muslim community.

The protests, which began last month, gathered fresh momentum as India celebrated Republic Day, in commemoration of the day the Indian constitution came into effect.

During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.

Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colourful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.

Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.

He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honour by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.

Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.

Pageantry and protests 

The parade was held against a backdrop of nationwide protests over the new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against minority Muslims, which make up 200 million people in India's 1.3 billion-strong population.

And as citizens celebrated in Delhi, in restive Indian Kashmir, all mobile phone services were suspended for several hours.

The cut came just a day after people in the Muslim majority area had internet services partially restored, after the central government cut access in August as it stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status.

And the north-eastern state of Assam, where the protests first began, was rocked on Sunday by four explosions which the police suspected were carried out by a separatist group. No-one was injured and nothing was damaged, police said.

Also on Sunday, hundreds of women blocked a Delhi highway to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act and a proposed National Register of Citizens.

The new law makes it easier for persecuted religious minorities from three neighbouring countries to obtain citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.

Protesters say the law is against the secular principles enshrined in the Indian constitution. 

In the southern state of Kerala, organizers said more than a hundred thousand people formed a human chain. It was followed by public meetings at over 250 places across the state.

Another human chain spread over 11km was also formed in Kolkata, organizers said.

There were also protests against Bolsonaro's visit, with a small rally held in the western city of Mumbai Friday where demonstrators questioned his stand on climate change and sexist comments against a female politician.