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India's Top Court To Hear petitions Against New Citizenship Law

Protesters stand amid smoke during a protest against the Citizen Amendment Act in New Delhi on December 17.

India’s Supreme Court said on December 18 it would next month hear pleas challenging the constitutionality of a new citizenship legislation that has sparked massive protests across the country.

Angry demonstrations erupted over the last week against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslims from three nearby countries – Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India -- who are in India illegally.

Some critics see the law as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalize India's 200 million Muslims. Others fear large-scale migration or say the legislation goes against the spirit of the country's secular constitution.

Modi, whose party says the law will give sanctuary to people fleeing religious “persecution,” reacted with defiance to the widespread protests.

Addressing supporters on December 17, the prime minister said the law "will have no effect on citizens of India, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, and Buddhists."

He also accused the opposition of "spreading lies and rumors" and "instigating violence."

On December 18, Indian authorities restricted assembly in a mainly Muslim neighborhood in the capital, New Delhi, and implemented a curfew in the northeastern state of Assam, according to media reports.

Based on reporting by the BBC and AP