Indian police have fired what appear to be warning shots and tear gas to disperse protesters during violent clashes in the capital and the northeast, as outrage spreads over a citizenship bill that excludes Muslims.
Two firefighters were injured when demonstrators, including locals and students from Jamia Millia Islamia University, torched buses, cars and motorbikes in leafy south Delhi on Sunday.
A witness said police retaliated by charging with their batons and firing tear gas at the protesters in a bid to disperse them.
Video footage shared on social media also appeared to show police officers firing live ammunition into the air, although this has not been officially confirmed.
A number of injured protesters were taken to a nearby hospital, according to the eyewitness, however police have not given injury toll figures.
The internet has been suspended for 48 hours in parts of West Bengal, where state chief minister Mamata Banerjee called for peace, warning that a “section of people are trying to take advantage of the situation and incite communal disharmony”.
The Bengal government said it had been left with “no other alternative” but to temporarily suspend the internet in the areas of Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Howrah, and parts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.
Two people were shot dead by police and dozens more injured after they defied a government-imposed curfew to protest on Thursday.
The unrest broke out in India’s capital after the controversial citizenship amendment bill, which allows Hindu, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh refugees from neighbouring countries to claim Indian citizenship but not Muslims, was signed into law last week.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government says the new law will save religious minorities from persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by offering them a path to Indian citizenship.
But critics say the law, which does not make the same provision for Muslims, weakens the secular foundations of India.
Sunil Choudhary, deputy chief fire officer, said four buses were torched in south Delhi and two firefighters were injured.
The previous day, protesters torched at least 15 buses on an expressway in West Bengal state, holding up traffic for several hours, two police officials said.
At least half a dozen railway stations in the state were vandalised and set on fire, leading to the cancellation of many long-distance trains on Saturday.
In India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh state, in the north of the country, students at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), a prominent institution set up in 1920, protested against the citizenship law and were mobilising Muslims via doorstep invitations for a bigger protest on Sunday.
Sharjeel Usmani, an undergraduate student at AMU, said: “With the passing of this bill the Muslim community is scared and this bill, which is now a law, is discriminatory in nature. We will protest against it till it is taken back.”
Additional reporting by Reuters.