Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Monday met protestors at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, which has become a major centre of continuous protests since last month against the amendments to the Citizenship Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act began across the country after it was passed in Parliament in December. On Monday, protests were again held in several places, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Rajasthan, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
“We’re against CAA, NRC, NPR,” Singh said at Shaheen Bagh, ANI reported. “These are against Constitution. We’re against the Centre’s divisive policy. No one has the right to ask for proof of citizenship from people who chose to live here.” He claimed that he was asked to deliver a speech by the protestors but refused “as it is not a political stage”.
Singh’s visit came even as the Delhi Police urged the protestors to unblock the road as parents of schoolchildren allegedly expressed “deep anxiety” because of upcoming board examinations. For over a month now, hundreds of protestors, mainly women, have occupied the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch to voice their opposition against the amended Act.
“More complaints have been received regarding inconvenience due to blockade of Road No. 13A, particularly to school children who are facing extreme hardship in reaching their schools, coaching centres and private tuitions,” the police said in a series of tweets. “Their parents have expressed deep anxiety in view of forthcoming Board examinations. Daily commuters, local residents and businesspersons are also facing acute harassment. We once again appeal to the protesters at Shaheen Bagh to clear the road and restore normal traffic.”
Protestors at Shaheen Bagh, however, responded that they were allowing school vans to cross. The protestors had also allowed an ambulance to cross over the weekend. “Dear Delhi Police, we too have children of our own, and understand parents’ worries for their children’s schooling and futures,” a Twitter handle called Shaheen Bagh Official said.
It added: “Many of our children are still recovering from unfair injuries sustained at JMI [Jamia Millia Islamia – a reference to the police violence during protests on campus last month]. Keeping schools in mind, we are allowing school vans to cross through near Kalindi Kunj park since schools have reopened. We look forward to your cooperation in these issues.”
The women protestors of Shaheen Bagh also sent a defamation notice to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology Cell chief Amit Malviya for his allegations that they were paid to protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The legal notice, which was sent by the office of advocate Mehmood Pracha, demanded an apology and Rs 1 crore in damages from the BJP leader.
A video shared on Twitter by Malviya on January 15 had claimed that the women were paid Rs 500 per day to oppose the amended citizenship legislation. The women who sent the notice were identified as Nafisa Bano of Zakir Nagar and Shahzad Fatma of Shaheen Bagh. They alleged that Malviya has a “vested interest in defaming the mass of protestors” as he is a member of the ruling party.
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Meanwhile, in the city of Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh, a “havan” (oblation ceremony) was conducted at Mansoor Ali Park. Muslims also participated in the ceremony, ANI reported. Those present said they wanted to break the narrative that people of only one community were protesting against the law.
In Mumbai, a group of lawyers on Monday assembled outside the Bombay High Court to read out the Preamble to the Indian Constitution in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Over 50 lawyers, including senior counsels Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh and Mihir Desai, read out the Preamble together. They said no one can divide the country and its citizens on the basis of religion. The lawyers said the amended citizenship law was “constitutionally wrong”.
Lawyers from the Calcutta High Court also held a protest against the citizenship law.
The Uttar Pradesh Police have filed three criminal cases against protestors at an indefinite sit-in against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Lucknow’s iconic clock tower. They have been accused of rioting and unlawful assembly. But women continued their protest against the Act and the National Register of Citizens, at Ghanta Ghar in the city, ANI reported.
In the police complaints, more than 135 unidentified protestors have also been accused of “disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant”, “assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty”. Among the dozen people named by the Lucknow Police include Sumaiya Rana and Fauzia Rana – the two daughters of renowned Urdu poet and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Munnawar Rana.
About 50 women began an indefinite sit-in at the site on Friday. By Saturday night, the crowd swelled as scores of women and children joined the demonstration.
Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, meanwhile, participated in a protest against the citizenship law in Varanasi. He said that the people of Uttar Pradesh were finally able to voice out their frustrations after being silenced by the police for over a month.
Former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, joined a sit-in protest against the citizenship law outside Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University on Monday. “I feel that the Citizenship Amendment Act needs a revamp,” he said, according to the Hindustan Times. “They should either include Muslims or remove other names. Make it inclusive... If PM calls these people and talks, the matter will get resolved.”
Jung has in the past served as the vice chancellor of Jamia. He said talks were important to resolve the current impasse. “When Anna Hazare movement had happened [in 2011], Congress government at the Centre was ready to talk to the agitators,” he said. “Why is the present government not ready to have such a dialogue? There should be talks.”
Here are some images from outside Jamia on Monday.
Students from several universities marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar on Monday. The march was held under the banner of “Young India against CAA-NRC-NPR”, a collective of over 30 students’ groups.
Here are some visuals from protests in other parts of India:
The amendments to the Citizenship Act, notified on January 10, provide citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. At least 26 people died in protests against the legislation last month.
The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. In Northeastern states, demonstrators feel the Act will erode their ethnic identities by granting citizenship to foreigners on religious grounds. Over the last year, the government has repeatedly claimed that the new citizenship law would be the precursor to a countrywide National Register of Citizens, intended to identify so-called illegal immigrants and deport them. Taken together, it is feared, the law and the register will work towards excluding Indian Muslims from citizenship.