NEW DELHI (AP) — Defending the host who has showered him with pomp and pageantry, President Donald Trump refused Tuesday to speak out publicly against a controversial new Indian citizenship law pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has sparked deadly protests over discrimination against Muslims.
Asked about the law one day after violence in the Indian capital left at least seven people dead, Trump told reporters: “I don’t want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India.”
The law provides fast-track naturalization for some foreign-born religious minorities but not Muslims, raising fears the country is inching nearer to a religious citizenship test.
Asked about the protests as he wrapped up a whirlwind two-day visit to India, Trump said he had raised the issue of religious freedom with Modi and the prime minister was “incredible” on the subject.
“He wants people to have religious freedom,” said Trump. The president himself proposed temporarily barring all Muslims from entering the U.S. during his 2016 campaign and successfully implemented a travel ban that targets travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries.
Trump was winding up a 36-hour visit to the continent that saw him showered with praise and adulation at every stop. Cities were plastered with billboards heralding his arrival, his travel routes were lined with enthusiastic crowds, and elaborately-costumed dancers and musicians, including some on camels, entertained him at every turn.
But as Trump was attending a massive rally in Ahmedabad and touring the gleaming Taj Mahal on Monday, at least seven were killed, including a police officer, and nearly 100 others reportedly injured in clashes between hundreds of supporters and opponents of the new Indian citizenship.
On Tuesday, protesters in several areas of northeast Delhi defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people and threw stones and set some shops and vehicles on fire, a police officer said. Some homes were attacked with rocks.