Visit curbed amid tensions in northeast region, where he was due to hold summit talks with his Indian counterpart.

Indian Muslims shout slogans against government during a protest against Citizenship Bill in New Delhi, India, Friday, December 13, 2019.
Indian Muslims shout slogans against government during a protest against Citizenship Bill in New Delhi, India, Friday, December 13, 2019. (AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a visit to India, the Indian foreign ministry said on Friday, amid tensions in the northeast region, where he was due to hold summit talks with counterpart Narendra Modi.

Two people were killed in Assam state on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs torching buildings and attacking railway stations in protest at new citizenship rules signed into law on Thursday.

Modi had planned to host Abe in Assam beginning Sunday as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India's diversity.

"With reference to the proposed visit of Japanese PM @AbeShinzo to India, both sides have decided to defer the visit to a mutually convenient date in the near future," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

On Friday, clashes erupted between students and Indian police in the capital city of New Delhi over a contentious new citizenship law.

Hundreds of students of Jamia Millia Islamia University protested against the new law, forcing the police to use tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd.

A divisive law

The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.

Critics of Modi's Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.

The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighbouring countries before 2015.

The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court, saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India's constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. 

No date has yet been set for the hearings.

The party said the law is "prima facie communal" and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies