Amid deadly protests across India over a contentious new law, one of its largest states has warned protesters it will seize their property, forcing activists to call it a “reign of terror” intended to crush dissent.
The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has demanded millions of rupees from more than 200 people and threatened to confiscate their property as a penalty for damage done to public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), seen as anti-Muslim.
The government in the state, India’s most populous, is headed by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Yogi Adityanath, a hardline Hindu leader who has vowed revenge on the protesters.
The state has suffered some of the most violent protests against the CAA, which gives minorities who have migrated from three neighbouring countries a path to citizenship but does not make the same concessions for Muslims.
Protesters have linked it to a proposed National Register of Citizens exercise under which every resident would have to show documents proving they are Indian citizens.
Hundreds of thousands of people across India, including university students, have joined protests against the law, posing the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he took office in 2014.
At least 18 of the 25 people killed so far in the protests have been in Uttar Pradesh, a state that has been a tinderbox for tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
Nearly 230 such notices have been issued, and most of the people they had been issued to were Muslims, state government officials said on Thursday.
The claims are likely to run into tens of millions of rupees, they said.
It was unclear how many people have been charged with rioting or other crimes, and none have been convicted. State officials have blamed much of the violence on Muslim mobs protesting against the law.