India’s main opposition party stages silent protest against new law
NEW DELHI: India's main opposition party staged a silent protest in the capital yesterday against a contentious new citizenship law, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended the legislation at a rally in New Delhi and accused the opposition of pushing the country into a "fear psychosis."
The protest was led by Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi along with other senior party leaders. Around 2,000 people joined the protest at the Raj Ghat, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, where the party demanded "protection for the Constitution and the rights of people enshrined in it".
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to India's streets to call for the revocation of the law, which critics say is the latest effort by Mr Modi's government to marginalise the country's 200 million Muslims.
The Congress party's former president, Mr Rahul Gandhi, had urged young people in New Delhi to join the protest.
"It is not good enough just to feel Indian. At times like these, it is critical to show that you're Indian and won't allow to be destroyed by hatred," Mr Gandhi tweeted yesterday.
Other protests were held across the country yesterday, including in the southern cities of Bengaluru and Kochi.
Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the citizenship law was passed in Parliament earlier this month in protests that represent the first major roadblock for Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda since his party's landslide re-election last spring.
Most of the deaths have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, where 20 per cent of the state's residents are Muslim.
The new law allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities who are in India illegally to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted because of their religion in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It does not apply to Muslims.
India's ruling party launched a video with animated Muslim characters on social media yesterday in a publicity blitz to try to bust "myths" around the new law. The clip shows two bearded men in traditional Muslim clothing discussing the legislation before concluding that the country can progress only if there is "peace and brotherhood". - AP, AFP