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different Assam campuses have been calling for the new citizenship law — the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) — to be repealed as it poses a threat to their ethnic identity.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.”


Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

Updated 20 January 2020

Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash
  • The plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran

KIEV: Ukraine will press Iran to hand over the black boxes from the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane at a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation on Monday, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters.
Ukraine would convey the message to visiting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, that returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash, Prystaiko said.
“His main task is to apologize and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Prystaiko said.
Iran had said on Sunday it was trying to analyze the black boxes from the airliner its military shot down this month, denying an earlier report it would hand them to Ukraine. All 176 aboard the flight died.
“At first they stated that they were handing them over, then the same person stated that they were not handing them over. This created some misunderstanding in Ukraine and we were starting to be asked: are they being handed over or not?“
Many of those killed had were Iranians with dual citizenship, but Iran does not recognize dual nationality and on Monday said it would treat the victims as Iranian nationals.
Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, said there were still no firm plans for downloading the recorders. Ottawa and other capitals have called for the black boxes to be sent abroad.
The Jan. 8 plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long-running dispute with the United States over its nuclear program and its influence in the region that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.
The Iranian military has said it downed Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in error in the aftermath of tit-for-tat strikes by the United States and Iran. But authorities delayed admitting this, prompting days of protests on Iran’s streets.
Ukraine held a ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil airport on Sunday as the bodies of 11 citizens, including nine crew, were returned to Ukraine.