Protesters in India plan to launch a campaign to send thousands of postcards to Prime Minister Modi urging him to repeal the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The campaign was started by an informal collective group called Friends of Shaheen Bagh. The protesters in the Shaheen Bagh area, a Muslim majority section of New Delhi, wrote postcards asking the Prime Minister to repeal the act, which would force Muslims to prove their citizenship and make it more difficult for Muslim refugees to gain citizenship in India. The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by the Indian parliament last month but it has been met with vehement opposition. Along with the postcard campaign urging PM Modi not to go through with CAA, women in Shaheen Bagh have been holding a sit-in on a highway for over a month now. Last weekend, they invited Modi to meet them at their protest site. A spokesman told Al Jazeera that Modi will not meet with the protesters.
One of the postcards written to Modi by a protester read, “Modi Ji [an honorific in Hindi], please stop CAA, NRC, and NPR. We completely reject these divisive acts on the basis of religion. Please don’t divide India. We really love India.” Another wrote, “When our country got freedom from the British, no one was asked to prove their citizenship to be a part of the freedom struggle. Now, why is there a need to prove our citizenship after such a long time?” Samiya Javed, one of the activists told Al Jazeera, “We collected almost 1,800 postcards today. This is our first event and we are planning to conduct similar events next week.” “We are focusing on Shaheen Bagh as of now and plan to expand it to Jaffarabad and Seelampuri, where the movement is being led by Muslim women,” Javed added. “Both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have made it clear that no Indian will lose citizenship under CAA. It’s to give citizenship and not to take away anyone’s citizenship,” said Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, a government spokesman. However, these reassurances have not put the people at ease.
These protests are an outstanding show of collective resistance. Hundreds of people organized to write down their thoughts to send to the Prime Minister, a great example of democracy in India. But, what will be even more of a great example of democracy will be if this campaign works, something that seems unlikely given the government’s repeated denial of the CAA’s effect of Muslims. Nonetheless, people across India are standing up for what they believe is right and opposing the new amendment.
According to Al Jazeera, the CAA will fast-track naturalization for non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, if they came to India before 2015. The government said the law is to help persecuted minorities from these countries, but it blocks naturalization for Muslim refugees fleeing the same violence. People against the CAA insist that it is anti-Muslim; the United Nations has even agreed that the law is discriminatory. Not only that, but it also violates India’s secular constitution and the law has now been challenged in the Supreme Court, which will have several hearings starting next week.
Muslims comprise 15% of India’s population and they fear their the CAA is one of many recent government decisions aimed at marginalizing them. Along with the CAA, there is also a proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). Activists say that this will force people to show documentation of their nationality, which will be stored in a government database. People fear this new law will not only marginalize Muslim refugees in India but they will be at a greater risk for deportation. Some of the protests have become violent after police descended on and shot at student protesters. Nationwide, these demonstrations have resulted in the deaths of 30 people so far. These protests are putting the Indian democracy to work and Prime Minister Modi’s future and final responses to the protests and activists will be the ultimate indicator of the level of democracy in India.
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