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Demonstrations against divisive citizenship laws in India held in many countries

31st Jan 2020

Indian diaspora demonstrate in support of the students in India in front of the Mahatma Gandhi statue on Parliament Square, Near Westminster Abbey, London (Credit: M Ghazali Khan)

M Ghazali Khan

Massive protests have been taking place inside and outside India for more than a month against India’s new citizenship laws.

An interesting aspect of these demonstrations is that be it Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, Jama Masjid and Turkman Gate or Lucknow’s Husainabad, or the protest organised by the UK alumni of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Muslim women are not only more visible but are leading from the front.

These protests were sparked by police’s savage and unprovoked attacks on December 15, on the students of JMI and AMU protesting against the new citizenship laws that have been widely criticised nationally and internationally.

Police entered the campuses of these two historical institutions, vandalised the library, set fire to a hostel room and threw tear gas canisters at the students. Several students were seriously injured, and the hand of an AMU student was amputated.

In Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, men and women of all ages and representing all communities have been braving severe cold weather, even rain, protesting for more than a month. As these lines are being written, reports from Delhi say that tonight thousands more are to join them.

However, unlike other cities, those who took part in the protests in Lucknow’s Hussainabad were mainly women. Despite police harassment, that has stooped as low as cutting off electricity and preventing the protesters from lighting bonfires to keep warm, the number of protesters is continuously increasing.

At Lucknow’s iconic Clock Tower, where 24-hour sit-in protest has been going on, police resorted to snatching demonstrators’ blankets. Photos of policemen taking away blankets, food and other items belonging to the protestors are going viral on social media. “Kambal Chor UP Police” (Blanket thief UP Police) is trending on Twitter.

The new laws give non-Muslim migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan the right to apply for citizenship simply by stating that they had to flee these countries because of persecution. They are not required to present any documentary proof.

Thus, for the first time and in clear violation of India’s secular constitution, citizenship has been linked with religious affiliation. Even more dangerous aspect of it is the preparation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) that would require the citizens to prove their citizenship going back generations and neither the passport nor the Adhaar Card, that is supposed to serve as an ID card, would be acceptable as a legitimate proof. However, a Muslim failing to prove that his grandparents and great-grandparents were born and lived in India would be sent to detention camps.

The new laws would also affect uneducated, poor and marginalised sections of non-Muslim communities most of whom are labourers and will not have the required documents. Thus, they will lose the right to vote.

Indian cities where anti-CAA and anti-NRC demonstrations have been held include Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Aligarh, Muzaffarnagar, Kosi, Murshidabad, Bhagalpur, Kanpur, Goa, Solapur, Bhopal, Calicut Gulbarga and Hyderabad.

Most horrific reports have come from Uttar Pradesh (UP), governed by BJP’s most extremist and anti-Muslim Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, where police have meted out blood-curdling atrocities on Muslims, including on those who had nothing to do with any protest.

A Shi’a residential seminary/orphanage, Anjuman Taraqqi e Taleem e Sadat Bahra, in Muzaffarnager was raided on December 20 by the police late at night. Its 70-year-old rector Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini and minor children were brutally beaten, and the madrasah was vandalised.

Maulana Hussaini and the students between 14 to 19 years, were taken to a police station, where the elderly cleric was stripped and brutalised and children mercilessly thrashed. There are reports that blood was found on their rectums leading to speculations that they were sexually abused. When the thirsty children asked for water they were asked to drink urine.
In Meerut and Muzaffarnagar police have also been involved in looting Muslim houses and in rampaging and torching their houses and businesses.

At least 32 people, mostly Muslims, nine of them in UP, have died in these widespread protests.

Countries, where demonstrations have been organised against these laws, include the UK, US, Germany and South Africa. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation only expressed “concern” over CAA and NRC.

However, the only Muslim leader who openly deplored these inhuman laws is the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir bin Mohamad. Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, called these laws as “unnecessary.”

There have been several demonstrations in UK cities with a large number of Indians including London, Leicester and Birmingham and more have been announced for January 25 and 26.


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