Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad will join the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality on Wednesday evening, a day after a court modified his bail order and made it possible for him to enter the city. Azad made the announcement on his Twitter page.
For over a month now, hundreds of protestors, mainly women, have occupied the Kalindi Kunj-Shaheen Bagh stretch in Delhi to voice their opposition to the amended Citizenship Act. As a result, the locality has become a major centre of nationwide protests against the law, with women in various parts of India leading their own versions of “Shaheen Bagh” protests.
Meanwhile, protests against the new law were held in various parts of India on Wednesday despite Union Home Minister Amit Shah reiterating his commitment to implement the law and daring protestors to continue demonstrations. Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury urged people to launch a “civil disobedience” movement against the citizenship law, the National Register of Citizens and National Population Register, reported The New Indian Express. He made the remarks at a public meeting in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi city.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it would not grant a stay on the amendments to the Citizenship Act without hearing the Centre. The court granted the Centre four weeks to file its reply to a batch of more than 140 petitions and said that a larger five-judge bench will be constituted to hear matters related to the amended law.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11 last year and notified on January 10, provides 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.
The Act, which has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, triggered nationwide protests. At least 26 people died during demonstrations last month – all in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam. In the North East, residents have protested against the Act for a different reason though – they believe it threatens their indigenous cultures.
North East shutdown
In the North East, students’ organisations issued a call for a complete shutdown of colleges and universities on Wednesday, The Hindu reported. These organisations are part of the North East Students’ Organisation, or NESO. The All Assam Students’ Union, which is a petitioner in the case in the Supreme Court, is also part of NESO.
The strike was being observed at Gauhati University, Cotton University, Dibrugarh University, North Eastern Hill University, Tezpur University, Assam Women’s University, Assam Agricultural University, Nagaland University, Rajiv Gandhi University and North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology.
The student fraternity in these universities issued a joint statement on Tuesday, hoping that the Supreme Court would consider the “unconstitutional and contentious CAA and its ill repercussions” on the indigenous people in the North East.
At Aligarh Muslim University
At Aligarh Muslim University, hundreds of students, including children from schools located on the campus, held a protest march on Tuesday, PTI reported. They shouted slogans such as “CAA se azaadi [freedom from CAA]” and “BJP se azaadi [freedom from BJP]”, and said they would boycott classes until their demands are met. The march began from the Purani Chungi and ended at the Babey Sir Syed gate of the university.
The university called an early winter vacation on December 16, a day after police violence against students on the campus. Protests have continued after the university reopened on January 13. “Our protests are peaceful and we will continue to boycott classes and exams till our demands are met,” former president of the university’s students’ union, Faizul Hasan, told reporters.
Students have built a dummy “detention centre” with cardboard and wood at the site of their protest.
Protests in Delhi
Late on Tuesday, a group of women held a protest outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi, hours ahead of the hearing of pleas challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act. They were from Delhi’s Rani Garden area, according to activist group Pinjra Tod. The police forced the women to disperse, and detained one of them, Pinjra Tod said.
Meanwhile, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal met an eight-member delegation of protestors at Shaheen Bagh and urged them to stop their demonstration, and claimed that it was inconveniencing schoolchildren, patients and the general public. The delegation submitted a memorandum of demands, including the withdrawal of the amendments to the Citizenship Act.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Tuesday wrote to the district magistrate of South East Delhi, expressing concern about the children seen at the Shaheen Bagh protests. The child rights body asked authorities to identify such children and arrange counselling for them as they “may suffer from mental trauma” as a result of “rumours and miscommunication”.
Congress questions Amit Shah
On Tuesday afternoon, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a rally in Lucknow to raise awareness about the controversial legislation, and said it would not be withdrawn. He said, “Let me say this here and now, this law will not be withdrawn, no matter who protests.”
Shah also challenged Opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati for a discussion on Citizenship Amendment Act in public forum.
However, the Congress objected to Shah’s rally, asking why prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which were in place in Uttar Pradesh since last month, were not valid for him.