Massive protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) continued for a sixth consecutive day across the country on Friday.
Protests across the country were mostly peaceful, barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Uttar Pradesh. Six people lost their lives in the state in violence and police action, police officials said. Samajwadi Party accused the state government of ordering the police to commit atrocities on people by barging into their homes.
In a setback to the BJP, its allies Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) made public their reservations about NRC. “Kaahe ka NRC? Bilkul laagu nahin hoga” (NRC, what for? Will not at all be implemented),” said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, his most categorical statement on the issue until now.
Lok Janshakti Party chief Chirag Paswan said nationwide protests show the Centre had “failed” to dispel confusion among a significant section of society. Paswan also released a letter he had written to BJP president Amit Shah, urging him to call a meeting of the ruling National Democratic Alliance to hold deliberations over the contentious proposal. The JD (U) and LJP had supported CAA in Parliament.
After West Bengal, Kerala became the second state to issue official directions to stop work on NRC-related activities, including the National Population Register (NPR).
The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry issued an advisory to television channels to desist from showing content that could “instigate violence”. It had issued a similar advisory on December 11.
The Union Home Ministry said no Indian citizen will be unduly harassed or put to inconvenience by asking to prove citizenship by showing documents like birth certificates of parents or grandparents dating back to a period before 1971.
In a series of tweets, a ministry spokesperson said illiterate citizens not having any documents, will be allowed to produce witnesses or local proofs supported by members of community. A well laid-out procedure in this regard will be issued by the home ministry, it said.
In Chennai, the city police registered cases against nearly 600 people for holding anti-CAA protests. Cases were filed against political leaders, social activists and others. The Tamil Nadu government has announced holiday for all universities and colleges from Saturday till January 1, 2020. Anna University has cancelled all its exams while the University of Madras had already declared holiday till January 1.
The National Human Rights Commission set up a team to look into allegations of police excesses in Jamia Millia Islamia University last Sunday evening.
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the BJP’s pushing through the CAA for the incidents of violence. “Who is the BJP to give citizenship to people? Don’t pay any heed to what they say. Because of the BJP, the whole country is burning,” she said at a rally.
The violence which gripped southern West Bengal last week has been contained and over 350 arrests have been made by the police in connection to violence and arson. Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has decided to intensify the protests from Monday.
In the national capital, thousands took out protests in Seelampur, Jama Masjid and Daryaganj areas. Tricolor in hand, they raised slogans like Hindustan Zindabad and Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai (Hindus and Muslims are brothers). Protests were peaceful. At Jama Masjid, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad took part in the protests. The police later detained him.
However, the police resorted to larthicharge in the Daryaganj in the evening to disperse the crowd after a vehicle was torched. Police said the trouble was the handiwork of outsiders, and it has taken at least two dozen people in custody. Several were injured. Protests were also held at India Gate.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi accused the government of showing “utter disregard” for people’s voices and said it has unleashed “brute repression” which was “unacceptable” in a democracy. The Congress has planned to join the protests from Monday. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined the protesters at India Gate, and later also visited Daryaganj police station where some protesters were detained.
Internet services were suspended in several parts of Uttar Pradesh. In Pune, over 10,000 people took out a march against the CAA and the NRC.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the NRC process will not start without consulting the stakeholders or talking to people. A protest was also held at Connaught Place in support of the CAA.
Union minister M L Mandaviya on Friday said he has handed over citizenship certificates to seven Pakistani refugees in Kutch, Gujarat.