Indian police detain man for firing during student protest

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian police on Thursday detained a man who fired a shot near a university in the capital of New Delhi where students were protesting a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

Chinmay Biswal, a senior police officer, said the police were investigating the incident, which left one student with hand injuries.

An eyewitness said the man fired the shot when the police tried to overpower him.

Ahmed Azeem, a Jamia Millia Islamia University spokesman, said the man with the pistol challenged the protesters as they started marching from the university to the mausoleum of India’s independence leader Mohandas Gandhi on his death anniversary.

The man’s name wasn’t immediately released. As he was taken away by the police, the man told reporters that he was named “Ram Bhakt Gopal”. Ram Bhakt means a devotee of the Hindu god Rama.

A man with a Facebook account under the same name live streamed himself near the campus on the networking site shortly before firing his pistol.

Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu extremist during a prayer meeting in the Indian capital in 1948 because he was considered sympathetic toward Muslims during the partition of the Indian subcontinent by British colonialists in 1947 into secular India and Islamic Pakistan.

Protests against a citizenship law that provides fast-track naturalization for those fleeing religious persecution from several countries, but not Muslims, have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together across the country, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.

Protests of the law in Delhi began at the mainly Muslim Jamia Millia Islamia University, where after a bus was set on fire police pursued protesters, shooting teargas canisters into the campus library and beating students with batons.

The law approved by Parliament on Dec. 11 allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are in India illegally to become citizens. Leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say Muslims were excluded because persecution on religious grounds isn’t possible in Muslim-majority countries.

Critics have slammed the legislation as a violation of India’s secular constitution, which guarantees equal protection for all, and have called it the latest effort by the Modi government to marginalize the country’s 200 million Muslims. Modi has defended the law as a humanitarian gesture. Dozens of petitions challenging the law are pending with the Supreme Court.

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