BANGALORE: Tens of thousands of people protested across India on Friday against a citizenship law passed by the Hindu nationalist government that critics say discriminates against Muslims.
Some 30,000 people marched in the southern city of Bangalore, more than 20,000 in Siliguri and thousands in Chennai, while big rallies were also held in New Delhi, Guwahati and other cities.
More than 1,000 members of the LGBTQ community, rights groups and their supporters joined the protest held in the capital.
Describing themselves as Citizens Against Bigots, they carried placards and shouted slogans accusing the government of pursuing policies aimed at forcing people to prove their citizenship and putting people from marginalised communities at risk.
Imran assails world’s silence over ‘state terrorism’
Protests have rocked India since legislation was passed in December that eases the way for religious minorities from three Muslim-majority neighbouring nations to gain Indian citizenship, but not if they are Muslim.
Critics say the law is a precursor to a national register of citizens that many among India’s 200 million Muslims fear will leave them stateless. Many poor Indians do not have documents to prove their nationality.
At least 27 people have died in the protests in recent weeks and hundreds more have been injured in clashes with police, fuelling public anger. Many prominent activists, including a television actress, have been detained.
At the Bangalore protest on Friday, businessman Nazir Ahmed said that “Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are gathering everywhere to protest and we shall continue to protest until this law is cancelled”.
In New Delhi, protesters vowed to continue their “resistance just like Hong Kong”, where a pro-democracy campaign has raged for nearly seven months.
“Police are trying to curb the protests in the most brutal way possible in a democracy but we won’t back down,” said Shristi, a 19-year-old student who gave only one name.
“In our own ways we will try to keep this movement alive till this law is revoked,” she said.
Home Minister Amit Shah insisted that the law was not discriminatory, as he launched a campaign to dispel “misinformation” that he claimed was being spread by opposition parties.
Workers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party would go door-to-door to explain the new law, Shah said.
For his part, Prime Minister Imran Khan wondered for “how long the world would remain silent while the fascist, extremist Modi regime indulges in state terrorism”. He shared an article of The Hindu newspaper entitled “A dangerous new low in state-sponsored hate”, written by Harsh Mander in which the writer has pointed out that in Uttar Pradesh, police bias and the scale of violence against the minorities were plumbing new depths.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2020