The two leading political parties of India, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and main the opposition Congress Party, led rallies on Monday (December 23) to present their side of the controversial citizenship law.
In capital city New Delhi, senior Congress Party leaders, including party president Sonia Gandhi, chiefs of various states ruled by the party, and former Prime Minister of Manmohan Singh, gathered at ‘Rajghat’ – a memorial dedicated to India’s iconic freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi.
Meanwhile, in eastern Kolkata city, India’s ruling BJP took to the streets in a protest led by party chief Jagat Prakash Nadda. Party legislator Roopa Ganguly said the rally was to bring forward those people who are in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), who are reportedly much more in number than those in opposition.
The CAA aims to fast-track citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before December 31, 2014, from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The passing of the bill on December 11 triggered widespread demonstrations in the eastern state of Assam, as protesters feared it would convert thousands of illegal migrants from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh into legal residents.
At least 21 people have died during clashes with police as thousands of people rallied in towns and cities across the country, marking the biggest challenge to Modi’s leadership since he first swept to power in 2014.
Modi’s government says that the new law is required to help non-Muslim minorities by providing them with a pathway to Indian citizenship.
Protesters say the citizenship law will be followed by the national register, which they fear is designed by the Hindu-nationalist government to expel Muslims who do not have sufficient citizenship documentation.
The government has refuted those allegations and vowed to protect all citizens equally.
(Production: Hannah Ellison)