Millions strike in India amid citizenship law backlash

Demonstrators hold placards and flags as they attend a protest rally against a new citizenship law, in Hyderabad, India, January 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Millions strike in India amid citizenship law backlash

  • Trade union strikes reflect frustration with the government’s economic policies

GUWAHATI: Popular resistance against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is gaining momentum as millions of workers have joined the opposition to the Indian government’s “anti-people” policies.

Banks and markets were shut down in several parts of the country on Wednesday, as 10 leading trade unions went on strike.

“The attitude of the government is that of contempt towards labor, as we construe from its policies and actions,” the unions said a joint statement.

Angry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, people have been taking to the streets since December, when a new citizenship law was passed. Large-scale demonstrations have been held across the country against the law that protesters refer to as “discriminatory.”

While trade unions are demanding “better wages, rollback of some of the policies that are adversely affecting the lives and livelihood of the workers,” student groups also participated in the rallies.

In the northeastern state of Assam, different student organizations joined the labor platform to protest against the government.

For almost a month, different Assam campuses have been calling for the new citizenship law — the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) — to be repealed as it poses a threat to their ethnic identity. The Assamese feel that under the CAA, immigrants in the state would become citizens, although they have not met the criteria of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which Assam released in August last year.

Some 1.9 million people in the state, mostly Hindus, were not on the NRC list, but the CAA will now accommodate them. The Assamese feel the move is a betrayal by the BJP government.

Under the CAA, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities from neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are eligible to become citizens, if they came to India before Dec. 31, 2014. Muslims are not included.

HIGHLIGHT

Under the CAA, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities from neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are eligible to become citizens, if they came to India before Dec. 31, 2014. Muslims are not included.

“We will continue the agitation till the government withdraws CAA,” Samujjal Bhattacharya, secretary-general of All Assam Students Union, told Arab News.

Wednesday’s labor strikes were also supported by students in the eastern Indian state of Bengal. In New Delhi, the protests were mild, but most of the government-owned banks were closed. Their employees were barred from participating in the rallies.

A BJP youth leader from New Delhi, Pappu Nirala, said that trade unions belong to the past and “don’t understand the dynamics of the changing world. Most of their demands are archaic.”

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress Party extended support to the protesting trade unions. Its leader, Rahul Gandhi, said on Twitter that Modi government’s “anti-people, anti-labor policies have created catastrophic unemployment and are weakening the PSUs (public sector units).”

Political analyst Pawan Pratay told Arab News that “the continuous protests in different parts of the country show that the BJP is gradually losing the political narrative and people are getting disenchanted,” especially economically, as people are becoming insecure about their future. 

The union strikes, Pratay said, reflect “frustration with the government’s economic policies.”

Pratay added: “If the government fails to arrest the economic slide there would be further resistance. Failure on the economic front will be disastrous for the Modi regime.”


In Bolivia desperate family leaves coffin in the street

Updated 04 July 2020

In Bolivia desperate family leaves coffin in the street

  • The Andean nation has reported 36,818 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,320 deaths

LA PAZ, Bolivia: The rising toll of COVID-19 deaths is overwhelming the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, where desperate relatives of one apparent victim of the new coronavirus left his coffin in the street for several hours on Saturday to protest difficulties in getting him buried.
Neighbor Remberto Arnez said the 62-year-old man had died on Sunday and his body had been in his home ever since, “but that’s risky because of the possible contagion.”
After a few hours, funeral workers showed up and took the coffin to a cemetery.
Police Col. Iván Rojas told a news conference that the city is collecting “about 17 bodies a day. This is collapsing the police personnel and funeral workers” in the city of some 630,000 people.
“The crematorium oven is small, that that is where the bodies are collecting,” said national Labor Minister Óscar Mercado, who told reporters that officials were preparing 250 new burial plots in the city’s main cemetery.
The Andean nation has reported 36,818 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,320 deaths.