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Gatherings banned in parts of Delhi after India citizenship law demos

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New Delhi (AFP)

Indian authorities banned large gatherings in parts of the capital on Wednesday as they stepped up efforts to contain a week of nationwide protests against a citizenship law seen as discriminating against Muslims.

The ban in some Muslim-dominated districts of New Delhi, where police had been injured in clashes with protesters on Tuesday, followed the arrests of hundreds of people elsewhere in India.

Still, fresh rallies flared on Wednesday in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra states, with other protests planned in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat states later in the day.

The protests against the legislation -- which fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries -- have claimed six lives so far in the northeastern state of Assam.

A day after intense protests rocked Delhi, police banned gatherings of more than four people in some Muslim-dominated areas of the city.

Police fired tear gas after thousands of protesters threw stones and set fire to at least two buses and a police outpost in Delhi's Seelampur district.

At least 21 people, including 12 policemen, were injured in the clashes. Six people were arrested for rioting and arson, police said Wednesday.

Another six people were arrested in West Bengal state for hurling a bomb at policemen in Howrah city on Tuesday that injured seven officers.

Howrah police commissioner Gaurav Sharma told AFP his officers were attacked when they went to arrest protesters who had allegedly vandalised a railway station.

In northern Uttar Pradesh state, more than 110 people were arrested over the protests, or for posting on social media, police told AFP.

Hostels at the state's Aligarh Muslim University, where police brutality was alleged by students on Sunday, were emptied after residents were told by the administration to start winter vacations early.

Peaceful protests outside another university, Jamia Millia Islamia, continued Wednesday after Sunday's rallies turned violent.

- Legal challenges -

The fresh round of demonstrations came as the Supreme Court said Wednesday it would hear all petitions challenging the law in January.

Petitioners have said the legislation is unconstitutional and goes against India's cherished secular traditions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained defiant in the face of the protests and said the law would not affect Indian nationals but protect persecuted Hindu, Sikh and other minorities from Muslim-majority neighbours.

Opponents say the law is a part of Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda to sideline the country's 200 million Muslims.

Opposition parties, led by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, met with President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday to ask him to advise Modi's government to withdraw the law.

The UN secretary-general's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday the global body was "concerned about the violence and alleged use of excessive force by security forces that we've seen that have been taking place".

"We very much call for restraint and urge full respect for the rights of freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly," he added.

Authorities have imposed internet blackouts and used force to shut down rallies and sit-ins, but protesters have vowed to keep up their fight until the law is revoked.

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