The protests over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) entered their 18th day on Monday, showing no signs of abating either in India or abroad, as the Indian diaspora has held demonstrations in the US.
The protest that started in India’s northeast on 12 December prompted another among students of a prominent university in the Indian capital, where large arson attacks and violence left about 100 students and 35 policemen injured. Several vehicles were also set on fire or damaged, though it is believed that it was done by outsiders.
The law seeks to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants from six religious minorities – Hindus, Parsis, Jains, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs, who are originally from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, if they arrived in India prior to 2015. It, however, doesn't extend the same treatment to Muslims - something which many deem to be a violation of the Indian constitution and religious discrimination.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched a public outreach campaign to dispel misinterpretations of the law, which he insists is in no way directed against Muslim citizens of India.
Protesters, mostly Muslim women, in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area have been staging a hunger strike for the past 17 days against the CAA and the proposed National Register for Citizens (NRC).
“As far as I remember, we have papers of our four generations of having lived in India. But who is Modi to ask us about our papers? He should show his degree first.” Jamila Khatoon, sitting in the protest at Shaheen Bagh asked. She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Federal Home Minister Amit Shah were trying to fool Muslim women with 'triple talaq' (a traditional Islamic divorce) but their real intentions are out in the open now.
Fresh pics from Shaheen Bagh— Kamran Shahid (@CitizenKamran) December 29, 2019
The Temperature is 2°C but these women are unrelenting and unmoved
The face on the world was changed my single women like Mother Teresa, Rani Laxmibai, Indira Gandhi etc
We have so many women here save India...!
India is in safe hands pic.twitter.com/gjHVA950ci
“We are on hunger strike for the last 17 days since this black law was enacted. This law doesn’t just concern one community but concerns scheduled castes, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. We are also against police who turned goon and their crackdown on students. We will continue the strike 'till the black law is rolled back,” said one protester, braving the biting cold.
Left-wing parties have also held a demonstration in Delhi's Jantar Mantar against the perceived police crackdown on protesters in various places over the past few weeks. The protesters, holding anti-NRC placards, directed slogans against police.
Railways and Tourism
Protesters in eastern West Bengal set railway stations and coaches on fire and the cost of the loss was estimated to total Rs. 800 mln. ($11.24 Million), claimed Vinod Kumar Yadav, Chairman of India’s Railway Board on Monday. He said, damages would be recovered from those involved in the arson and vandalisation of railway property.
India’s tourism industry was also facing the adverse effects of the anti-government protest as at least seven countries issued travel warnings. The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Singapore, Canada and Taiwan have issued travel warnings and advisories for their citizens and asked them refrain from visiting India or be cautious during the visits.
Detained During Protest
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home-state of Gujarat, 81 people including students were detained on Sunday (29 December) as they took part in a rally against the CAA and NRC. The protesters were detained, as no permission to hold the protest was given; but they were later released, said police.
In the southern city of Mangaluru, police arrested 12 people for their role in violent protest in the city on 19 December, when two persons were killed when fired upon by police, which led to internet services being shut down for 48 hours in the Dakshina Kannada district.
Art to take over hate
Meanwhile, the protest over CAA has taken an artistic turn as people have expressed their anguish by drawing traditional floor patterns, known as rangoli. Eight people were detained on Sunday in India’s southern state of Chennai by police for drawing rangolis featuring anti-CAA messages.
We will still let our voices be heard through any which way possible. As citizens we should not be shut off and no one has the right to tell us what and what not to do . #KolamAgainstCAA #KolamProtestAgainstCAA #KolamForConstitution #CAA_NRC pic.twitter.com/HKgOImZ64X— Tamil Nadu Pradesh Mahila Congress (@TamilNaduPMC) December 30, 2019
In the northeastern state of Guwahati, protesters recited poetry and sang songs. India’s opposition Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also visited families of youth who were shot and killed by the state.
Peaceful anti-CAA protest with a touch of rock in my home state Manipur pic.twitter.com/xaZV65eL1G— Khogen Singh (@khogensingh1) December 28, 2019
Shri Rahul Gandhi’s visit to families of young men killed by the police in Assam during CAA protests. pic.twitter.com/8v74Y2cu4B— SU (@ShahNawazKhanMM) December 30, 2019
Massive protest gathering at Gogamukh, #Assam today to oppose #CAA. One voice, scrap CAA!#CAAProtest #CAA_NRC_NPR #CAA_NPR_NRC #NorthEastUnited @SamujjalBhatta@varungrover @VishalDadlani @Actor_Siddharth @AnibasNimsay @bora_dimpy @NENowNews @arunachaltimes_ @time8news pic.twitter.com/PRALvrsyMd— Prem Taba (@PremTaba) December 30, 2019
More violence was witnessed in India’s Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, as opposition Indian National Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi alleged that she was manhandled by cops after she tried to give the police a slip to visit the family of retired bureaucrat SR Darapuri, who was arrested during the protests against the citizenship law on December 20.
However, the police have rebutted her claim and said she violated the security protocol, the Central Reserve Police Force said in a statement on Monday.
More than 18 people were killed during protests in the state, the highest number of casualties so far to have happened during protests against the new law.
Meanwhile, an official complaint has been registered against six police personnel in Bijnore district for allegedly killing of Mohammad Sulaiman, 20, according to Hindustan Times report. The complaint has been registered by the victim’s brother.
Politicians against CAA
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday lashed out at BJP government plan for branding protesters as "anti-nationals" and urged political parties and civil rights group to join hands to isolate BJP across the country.
Taking out a 5-km-long protest march in the state Banerjee said, "BJP is planning to take away the citizenship of legal citizens. I would appeal to everybody to join hands against the BJP and isolate them everywhere."
Northern Punjab State Chief Amarinder Singh's office also issued a statement stating that the state government would not implement CAA. Singh also addressed a protest march and said that his government would continue to fight against the law.