Citizenship Act protestors from Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality marched towards Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s residence on Sunday, taking up his open invitation to speak to him about the amended law. However, it was called off after the Delhi Police said the demonstrators were not given permission for the march.
The round-the-clock sit-in protest, primarily led by women in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, has been going on since December 15. Ahead of the recently concluded Delhi polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party had tried to present it as a referendum on the anti-Citizenship Act protests, especially the one at Shaheen Bagh.
At an event on Thursday, Shah said: “I want to say that they [Shaheen Bagh protestors] should ask for time from my office. Within three days I will give time.” The minister added that he will meet anyone as long as the discussion is “done on merits”.
For Sunday’s march, police claimed they had asked the protestors to provide details of the delegation that will meet Shah but they responded saying that nearly 5,000 people will walk to the minister’s residence, The Indian Express reported. The New Delhi district police had reportedly written to the Shaheen Bagh protestors, informing them that the march will go through two more districts, and request for permission had been sent to the police headquarters for required action.
“We will march to Amit Shah’s house along with everyone here,” a 76-year-old protester told NDTV. “We will speak in front of everyone. We will ask him to give in writing that NRC [National Register of Citizens] and CAA will be taken back.”
After the march began around 2 pm, a large group of police personnel stopped the rally. “They [Shaheen Bagh protesters] told us that they wanted to take out a march [to meet Shah] but we told them they cannot as they do not have appointment call from [the] Union Home Minister,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South East) RP Meena told ANI. “We are talking to them and we hope that they will understand.”
The official Twitter handle of the protests posted images of heavy police personnel deployed at the protest site at 2.10 pm. After the protestors were stopped from marching to Shah’s residence, the account tweeted at 2.20 pm saying: “Dadis of Shaheen Bagh are going to speak with police representatives to get permission to march ahead.” Another update around 3 pm said people had gathered at Shaheen Bagh on the home minister’s invitation for a dialogue, and asked if Shah would speak to them.
However, the march was suspended after a discussion with the police. The demonstrators said they had assured officials they will not violate any protocol by marching to Shah’s residence. They said they will continue their protest at Shaheen Bagh till they acquire permission, Hindustan Times reported.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, 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, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people have died during the protests with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal last month.
Critics of the amended citizenship law believe it will clubbed with the National Population Register (a list of “usual residents” of the country) or National Register of Citizens (an exercise to identify undocumented immigrants) to declare several people as “non-citizens”. As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating the proposed all-India NRC.