Indian women have picked up the baton of protest from local students to complain about the recently-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act, in the Shaheen Bagh locality of south-east Delhi.
Several prominent political and civil rights activists have visited to express their solidarity with the women, mostly Muslims, who are now the rallying point for anti-CAA protests across the country.
The neighbourhood witnessed bloody clashes between university students and police in December, spiralling into a nationwide protest against the CAA, introduced by the federal government on 12 December.
On Tuesday evening, braving Delhi’s chill, a little girl attended the protest, chanting slogans from the podium “NRC Vapis Lo, CAA Vapis Lo” (Roll Back National Register of Citizens or NRC, roll back CAA).
The protesting women keep repeating one question, “Kya Modiji ka dil nahi dukhta? (Doesn’t it hurt PM Modi to see us women sitting here?) “We have left houses; asked our kids to eat outside because joining this protest is more important for us than filling their stomachs”.
As Delhi is set to elect a legislative assembly on 8 February, the protesters have vowed to let their voices be heard
“We will die but we won’t vote for the government that backstabbed us. This time I would vote for Kejriwal,” said a woman protester on condition of anonymity.
The regional Aam Admi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal won the last assembly elections landslide, winning 67 of the 70 seats. According to the Election commission of India, approximately 14.7 million people are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections.
Another woman asked: “Why would we vote for the ones keen on kicking us out of this country? The one who has worked for the development of the state is entitled to our vote.”
The Delhi Chief Minister has so far remained silent on the issue of CAA and NRC. A 42-year-old lady named Azoori said: “Kejriwal is silent on the issue, but at least he didn’t backstab us like Modi did. The whole of Shaheen Bagh will come out and vote for the Aam Aadmi Party.”
One old lady said: “The government should focus on the task it has been elected for. Why is it keen to divide the population on religious lines? Why is the ruling dispensation troubling the poor of the country, the very poor that brought him (Modi) to power? We want government to roll back the NRC and the CAA.”
The federal government has maintained that the protests against the new law are the result of misinformation spread by opposition parties and that no Indian citizens would be affected by the law.
Just as people started leaving, a woman exclaimed: “Modi ki tehh ki zindagi nahi jiyenge” (won’t live the life decided by PM Modi for us).
The amendments to the Indian Citizenship Act, allow citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It doesn't extend the same rights to Muslims, something which has driven the ongoing protests.
The federal government has rebuffed claims that the move is unconstitutional, saying that the law was not targeting any religious group and was not discriminating against Muslims.
Since then, several opposition parties, civil rights groups and university students have taken to streets to protest against the law, with many states, including Kerala, which has challenged the law in the Supreme Court of India, refusing to enforce it.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.