By M Ghazali Khan
LONDON: Braving pouring rain and severe cold weather hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Indian High Commission, Wednesday, to protest against the notorious Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC).
Because of the presence of such a large number of participants and to keep the traffic flowing and leaving some space for passers-by, demonstrators had to stand on both sides of the road.
Holding a variety of placards with varied anti-Hindutva captions and chanting anti-Hindutva, anti-Brahmanism and anti-caste slogans in English, Hindustani and Malayalam, the protesters stood outside the India House for more than two hours. Several speakers addressed the gathering vehemently and unanimously condemning BJP’s fascist policies.
Slogans included, ‘Modi ki jaageer nahiN, Hindustan Hamara hai’; ‘Ham le ke raheN ge Azadi, yeh haq hai hamara, Azadi; Ham lad ke leN ge Azadi; Tum mano ge kaisa na, Azadi; Ham cheen ke leN ge Azadi; NRC se Azadi; Hindutva se Azadi; Brhmanwad se Azadi’; Amit Shah se Azadi’; ‘Aaj Hartal, kal hartal, na mane to dera daal’
Speeches were preceded with the reading of the preamble of Indian constitution.
The protest was called by South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) and SOAS India Society.
A press release issued by the organisers said, ‘The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has recently been passed by the Indian parliament is an attack on the very basis of Indian citizenship.’ The law allows migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to become Indian citizens provided they are either Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Jain, or Christian. By explicitly linking Indian citizenship with religious affiliation, and conspicuously excluding Muslims, the law seeks to subvert the secular nature of the Indian constitution and build a legal foundation for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stated dream of creating a Hindu Rashtra (state) in India.’
The press release further said that the NRC and new citizenship rules, ‘…will result in the potential disenfranchisement of India’s 200 million Muslims. The NRC process will require citizens to prove their status with documentation going back several generations. Based on the experience of the state of Assam, which has already been through such an exercise, this process will intimidate and harass ordinary citizens, especially those from poor and marginalised backgrounds who do not have all the requisite paperwork. With the government proposing to implement the NRC across the country, the CAA now aims to give citizenship to the large proportion of Hindus caught in the snare of the NRC, making it essentially an exercise to exclude Muslims.
‘The passing of the CAA has been met with protests across the country by people from all backgrounds and religions. In every major Indian city, people have been gathering to express their opposition to the Act. There have been democratic, peaceful protests where ordinary citizens have collectively recited the Preamble to the Constitution. Many have also pledged to boycott and refuse to cooperate with the NRC. In the Northeast , where protests have been particularly intense, the government has deployed army and paramilitary units, imposed curfews, and blocked Internet access. Five young people, Dipanjal Das, Sam Stafford, Dwijendra Panjing, Iswar Nayak and Abdul Alim, have already been killed in police firing.
Making special mention of police brutality against Jamia and AMU students it says, ‘On Sunday, 15 December, Delhi Police illegally entered the campus of Jamia Millia Islamia University and used pellet guns to fire at protesting students. Tear gas shells were fired at students studying in the library and inside hostel rooms, creating havoc and seriously injuring many, including at least two students with bullet wounds. Muslim students were targeted for particularly acute violence, accompanied by Islamophobic abuse. Women students have said that the police sexually assaulted them after barging into their hostel. Multiple reports of police violence against peaceful student protests have also emerged from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).The implementation of curfew and shutting down of internet has prevented students at AMU from communicating with the outside world, but the press has been able to confirm that there have been severe injuries including one student who lost his hand when hit by a teargas shell.’
‘Protesting is a basic democratic right. In India under Narendra Modi’s regime we have seen alarming suppression of dissent along with sustained efforts to reinforce Brahmanical Hindutva ultra-nationalist ideologies and the vision of a regressive purist Hindu nation. The violent attacks by the police and military on peaceful protests is yet another blatant display of the Indian Government’s repressive and autocratic nature. It says.
‘We strongly condemn the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian parliament. We oppose the plans to implement the National Register of Citizens across the country. We stand in solidarity with protestors across India who are fighting brutal government repression in order to exercise their democratic rights.’
Full text of the press release may be read on SASG’s website.