Five people in Chennai were detained by the police on Sunday morning for protesting against the amended Citizenship Act, the National Register of Citizens, and the National Population Register for drawing rangolis on a street, The News Minute reported. Two lawyers who went to the police station to assist the detainees were also held.

They were kept at a community hall beside the J5 Shastri Nagar police station in the city’s Besant Nagar area for a brief period of time. The protestors were identified as Gayathri, Madan, Arthi, Kalyani and Pragathi. They drew rangolis that read “No CAA”, “Vendam [Don’t want] CAA” with white and red rangoli powder on the streets.

“These are citizens of Tamil Nadu, a state which has a culture of celebrating art, dissent and rationality,” said Gayathri. “We want to be able to put small kolams [rangolis] like this. It is a central aspect of the month of Margazhi. We are living in a police state where we have to beg for permission to put a six-dot kolam. We are only doing it outside homes and not on public roads. How can this be unlawful assembly?”

The police confirmed that the demonstrators had informed them earlier about drawing rangolis in the area between 7 am and 10 am, but permission was not granted. “Though there is nothing wrong in drawing kolams, they cannot do it and obstruct traffic,” an unidentified senior police officer told The Hindu. “Hence we asked them to leave.” The official said that the group was later picked up from Besant Nagar 4th Avenue as they continued to draw on the streets and were kept in preventive custody.

Assistant Commissioner Vinoth Shantharam V, who ordered the detention, said the police had the right to take the action as the small group may soon grow and cause a law and order problem. He said that it needed to be prevented at this stage. The group of five protestors were released after about 90 minutes.

Two senior advocates, identified as Yogeshwaran and T Mohan, were detained but there was no clarity why they were held, said Swaroop, a lawyer. Activist Nityanand Jayaraman put up a tweet saying: “Seven people who were detained for putting anti-CAA kolams, and three lawyers who went to meet the detainees, now released.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act has triggered protests across the country after it was passed in Parliament on December 11. The legislation provides Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The law has attracted widespread criticism as it excludes the Muslim community from its purview.

The population register is linked to the census, due in 2021, and is described as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”. Last week, the Cabinet approved funds of Rs 3,900 crore to update the population register. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants.