Everything You Need to Know About the Protests in India
People in India gathered on December 19, 2019, to protest the government’s intensified religious discrimination. Around 25,000 people filled the streets of Mumbai and 10s of thousands more protested other major cities in India. On Dec. 11, the Indian government passed a new Citizenship Amendment Act. This act makes religion a qualification to gain citizenship. As the people continue to disagree with the actions of the state, here is everything that people should know about the protests in India.

Reasons for the Protests

The Citizenship Amendment Act promises to expedite the citizenship statuses of people of religious minorities in the countries neighboring India. This includes Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and many more, however, it excludes Muslims. Many of the protestors view the bill as an anti-Muslim sentiment in India, coming to a legislative light under Prime Minister Modi, even though Islam is the second-largest religion in India. It also sparks the fear that the 200 million Muslims with citizenship currently living in India could have their status called into question in the future.

Who are the Protestors?

Most of the protestors at the forefront are students from some of India’s most acclaimed universities, like Jamia Milia Islamia University (JMIU) in New Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and IIT-Bombay. The first protest at JMIU turned violent. In addition, there was rampant police brutality against Muslim students. Consequently, this sparks other universities to stand in solidarity against police brutality. Police officers threw tear gas into the library and hit some nonviolent students with batons.

Violence in the protest

The protests in India as a whole have resulted in the arrests of thousands of people, of which authorities arrested around 5,000 “preventatively” and 23 died. Six people alone died in Uttar Pradesh, a city in the north. However, the police chief of the area, Prakash Singh, claimed that the police did not fire any bullets and that they used only tear gas and batons on peaceful protestors. Despite these claims, the causes of death have yet to receive a public release. The most recent wave of peaceful protests in India has been in violation of an act temporarily preventing gatherings of more than four people at a time, heavily restricting the right to protest at a time of mass civil unrest.

Internet and Cellular Service Shut Downs

The internet and cellular services shut down in parts of the country, specifically the state of Uttar Pradesh. Prior to the cut, authorities arrested over 100 people. As of the end of 2019, there were inflammatory or inciting posts on social media regarding the CAA. Additionally, the police chief backs this move as a means to prevent the circulation of fake news and to stop the apparent fear-mongering of the CAA opposition.

The scale of the public outcry against the Citizenship Amendment Act shows that the fight to maintain India’s position as a secular state is far from over, although the authorities have stopped protestors. Protestors have had international support as well. On December 18, 2019, many people protested outside of the Indian consulate buildings in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. As the protests in India rage on, the country remains torn over the discriminatory nature of this new law, and what it means for its democracy as a whole.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: UN Multimedia