Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to India's streets to call for the revocation of the law, which critics say is the latest effort by Narendra Modi's government to marginalize the country's 200 million Muslims. Picture: Aijaz Rahi/AP

New Delhi — Paramilitary and police forces were deployed and the internet shut down Friday in Muslim-majority districts in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which has experienced the highest death toll in protests that have erupted nationwide against a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

Security drones buzzed over western Uttar Pradesh, where protests turned violent after last week's Friday prayers.

Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the citizenship law was passed in Parliament earlier this month in protests that represent the first major roadblock for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda since his party’s landslide reelection earlier this year.

Most of the deaths — 16 people — have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, according to state government spokesman Awanish Awasthi. Twenty percent of the state’s 200 million people are Muslim. The state government is controlled by Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party. Government officials have repeatedly said security forces haven't killed anyone.

Modi has defended the new citizenship law and accused the opposition of pushing the country into a “fear psychosis.”

Journalists participate in a protest against attacks on fraternity members while covering protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Mumbai, India. Picture: Rajanish Kakade/AP
Journalists participate in a protest against attacks on fraternity members while covering protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Mumbai, India. Picture: Rajanish Kakade/AP


Indian women shout slogans during a protest against a new citizenship law that opponents say threatens India's secular identity in Bangalore. Picture: Aijaz Rahi/AP


Indian women hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against a new citizenship law that opponents say threatens India's secular identity in Bangalore. Picture: Aijaz Rahi/AP
An Indian woman holds a placard during a protest against a new citizenship law that opponents say threatens India's secular identity in Bangalore. Picture: Aijaz Rahi/AP

The law allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted because of their religion in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It does not apply to Muslims.

Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to India’s streets to call for the revocation of the law.

AP