Almost seven million people in Kerala joined hands to form a massive human chain on Sunday in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, IANS reported. The 620-km human chain stretched from the Kasaragod town square in the north to the state’s southernmost tip. The protest was organised by the ruling Left Democratic Front.
In Thiruvananthapuram district, people read the Indian Constitution’s Preamble and took a pledge to protect secular values. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, along with his family members, joined the chain at the Martyrs’ column in Palayam.
“The human chain organised today against CAA has become a great wall,” ANI quoted Vijayan as saying. “This law is a threat to the secularism of this country. Kerala has made it clear that CAA, NRC and NPR will not be implemented on this soil.”
The chief minister said Kerala showed how protests can be held peacefully when people come together. “Today also we have seen the same being repeated in the form of a human chain,” Vijayan added. “The participation has been overwhelming and the message is very clear that we do not accept CAA as this divides people based on religion. Even various countries, as well as the UN, have said that this should not happen.”
State ministers Thomas Isaac, AK Balan, K Raju, MM Mani, G Sudhakaran, VS Sunil Kumar, TP Ramakrishnan, AK Saseendran, KK Shylaja, EP Jayarajan, Ramachandran Kadannappally and E Chandrasekharan, and Left Democratic Front convenor A Vijayaraghavan also joined the protests.
Vijayaraghavan had earlier said the human chain was a continuation of Vijayan’s efforts to organise people against the controversial citizenship law. The chief minister has already convened an all-party meeting on the matter, organised an all-party dharna, pushed through an Assembly resolution against the Act, and challenged the legislation in the Supreme Court.
The Citizenship Amendment Act 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 has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Assam.
The National Register of Citizens is a proposed exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. One such exercise, carried out in Assam last year, led to the exclusion of over 19 lakh people. While the Narendra Modi has claimed that the new citizenship law will not take away anyone’s citizenship, the government’s critics fear that the amended law and the National Register of Citizens will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion.