CAA against secular ethos of Constitution, say protesters
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Citizenship law was "not against the citizens of India but for those seeking citizenship in India" at Ramlila Maidan, here on Sunday, a gathering in the city's posh area accused him of dividing the country in the name of religion through the Act by killing the "secular ethos of the Constitution".
This sentiment was expressed by protesters staging a peaceful foot march in south Delhi's Alaknanda area against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which has faced countrywide violent demonstrations.
A gathering of over 100 protesters, including students and professionals, hit out at the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, saying "the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in a compound way undermine the secular Constitution".
The protest was a part of demonstrations in which as many as 19 people have been killed, over 1,500 arrested and around 5,000 detained since Parliament passed the law on December 11 that critics say discriminates against Muslims and threatens India's secular ethos because it makes religion a criteria for citizenship.
Several students from the Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University took part in the protest that began from Don Bosco School in Alaknanda at 11 a.m. when the Prime Minister addressed a gathering at Ramlila ground ahead of Delhi Assembly elections, expected early next year.
Raising slogans, like "Down down Modi and Shah", "CAA and NRC down down", "What we want is freedom" and "We want freedom from Sangh", and displaying banners and placards that read, "Take back the black law" and "We are one", the protesters urged the government to repeal the CAA.
The protest, which culminated after two and a half hour's fierce attack on the government, covered a distance of around 2 km in the police presence. The participants were mostly from non-Muslim communities.
One of the demonstrators, S.A.S. Kirmani, an education consultant, urged the government to "take back CAA", saying "it's against secular ethos of the Indian Constitution".
Talking to IANS Majid, former teacher of DPS R.K. Puram, said the government was "wrong at every point". "They (the government) have been chosen to protect the civilisation. But our civilisation is under threat. Muslims are our brothers. Why there is divisiveness in the name of Muslims. Things were fine till (late Atal Bihari) Vajpayee (former Prime Minister and BJP stalwart)."
Young film-maker Shaunak Sen said the CAA and the NRC were "dangerous" for Muslims and accused the government of taking contradictory steps.
"The government says the CAA is for minorities facing religious persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But they excluded the Muslim minority. Ahmadiyas and Balochs are also facing religious persecution. Where would they go if India shut its doors for Muslims seeking refuge. Like them, there are other communities facing persecution in Sri Lanka," Sen told IANS.
Waving the Tricolour, some protesters expressed anger by raising slogans, like "Modi, Shah are fake", "Modi, Shah leave the reign", "We are moving to save the Constitution".
Kuldeep Rohilla, a photographer, launched a scathing attack at Modi by comparing him with Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty. "Another Babur has come. We have to stop them at some place. The CAA is not a problem, but the manner of it's implementation is an issue."
Bindu Seth, a professional, told IANS the CAA and the NRC were only because of the Congress. "Had the Congress done its work properly, there would have been neither the CAA nor the NRC. We are playing in the politicians' hands. Fundamental rights should be protected."
The law aims to grant citizenship to six communities -- Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Parsi -- facing persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. To qualify for citizenship, the applicant should have came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
Hundreds of security personnel have been injured in protests across India, the strongest dissent against Modi since he came into power in 2014.IANS