Organizers vow to defy bans on large gatherings of people to voice their anger at discriminatory legislation
Crowds of thousands are predicted to take to the streets across India on Thursday to protest a citizenship law seen as discriminatory against Muslims.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week sought to push the law through parliament, igniting widespread anger that resulted in violent protests that have already left six people dead.
Under the law, non-Muslim migrants who fled to India prior to 2015 from neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be granted citizenship of India. Critics have slammed the discrimination against Muslims, saying the law further erodes India’s secular Constitution by making religion a prerequisite for citizenship, and setting the country on the path to becoming a “Hindu nation.”
Over the past week, as protests have continued to spread, hundreds have been arrested. Authorities have sought to prevent further unrest by banning the internet in flashpoint areas, and outlawing gatherings of large people.
For Thursday, protest organizers have announced plans for rallies in major cities across India, including the capital New Delhi. Despite police refusing a permit for one of the major planned demonstrations, organizers said they would defy the orders and march anyway.
In Mumbai, hundreds of people rallied on Wednesday carrying placards with the words: “India is Ours” and chanting “We Are All One,” reported news agency AFP. “We just cannot go along with this bill. I can’t believe we now have to prove our citizenship after living in India for so many years,” Tabeer Rizvi told AFP as the Mumbai crowd burst into a Hindi version of the U.S. civil rights movement anthem: “We shall overcome.”
Rallies were also stages in other states including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Telangana on Wednesday.
The law has also attracted the concern of the global community. Neighboring Pakistan has warned that it risks inciting a new refugee crisis by pushing the 200-million-strong Muslim minority out of the country. The U.N. secretary general’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said earlier this week that the global body was “concerned about the violence and alleged use of excessive force by security forces that we’ve seen that have been taking place.” The U.S. State Department has also week urged New Delhi to “protect the rights of its religious minorities in keeping with India’s constitution and democratic values.”