Hundreds of women in India brave virus threat to protest citizenship law

Indian women participate in a rally to protest against a new citizenship law in Rupahi hat village, east Gauhati, India, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 18 March 2020

Hundreds of women in India brave virus threat to protest citizenship law

  • Muslims in India fear that the NPR and NRC would render them stateless if they failed to provide citizenship documents, but that Hindus, for example, would be protected under the CAA
  • “If the government is really concerned about the safety of Muslim citizens, then why did it fail to protect their lives in the recent wave of violence in Delhi that claimed so many?”

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of women took to the streets in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday, in defiance of the government’s orders against mass gatherings, to continue protesting against the new citizenship law.
The activists demanded chief ministers from 29 Indian states de-link the census from the National Population Register (NPR) saying: “It would render many woman as stateless, regardless of caste and community, as the majority of them leave their natal homes upon marriage without any documents in tow.”
Humera Sayed, 26, said she was not afraid of the coronavirus outbreak despite the warning issued by the government to avoid public assembly.
“For me coronavirus is less dangerous than the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC) that threaten the very existence of the Muslim community in India,” Sayed, who has been sitting at the protest site in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area since mid-December, told Arab News.
“If the government is really concerned about the safety of Muslim citizens, then why did it fail to protect their lives in the recent wave of violence in Delhi that claimed so many lives?” she added. 
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government enacted the CAA in December 2019, protests against the law have been ongoing across the country.  The CAA makes it easier for religious minorities from three neighboring countries — Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan — to acquire citizenship if they entered India before 2015, but it excludes Muslims. The new citizenship law also has the provision to prepare the NPR, where every Indian would have to give details of his ancestry besides providing personal information.
Activists believe the NPR is the precursor to the proposed NRC, an exercise in identifying the genuine citizens of India. Muslims in India fear that the NPR and NRC would render them stateless if they failed to provide citizenship documents, but that Hindus, for example, would be protected under the CAA.
On Monday, the government issued a warning asking people not to form a gathering of more than 50 people on account of the spread of the virus.
 “Coronavirus does not challenge our existence, you can be cured of coronavirus, but the law that the government has brought in threatens the very existence of the Muslim community in India,” said Zikra Mojibi, a postgraduate student at the protest in Delhi.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Activists demand Chief Minister of 29 Indian states to de-link the census from National Population Register.

• India has seen violent protests against new citizenship law nationwide.

told Arab News.
 “As a precaution to avoid coronavirus infection, we have asked elderly women to restrict their attendance,” she added. “We are planning to hold protests in groups rather than in a big numbers. But we are not going to back down and withdraw our protest.”
 On Tuesday, twenty women’s groups from different parts of India asked state governments to stop the process of the proposed NPR, set to roll out from April 1, the same day as India will launch its census, which is held every decade.
 “The amended citizenship law clearly says that on the basis of the NPR, there would be an NRC that means many genuine citizens would be rendered stateless, as happened in Assam, where the government prepared the NRC list in 2018,” said Poonam Kaushik of the Progressive Women Association.
 Last year, the northeastern state of Assam prepared an NRC where around 2 million people were left off, the majority of them belonging to the Hindu community. The Hindus were protected under the CAA, but more than 400,000 Muslims were rendered stateless. Many women could not register themselves as citizen because of a lack of valid documents.
 Women’s rights activist and writer Farah Naqvi said: “All women, irrespective of caste and religious community, will be affected by this new NPR-NRC regime that puts our citizenship to the test in a totally arbitrary and frightening manner.”
 On Friday, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah told the country’s parliament: “No document needs to be submitted. You can give whatever information you have and leave the other questions blank.”
 He added: “Nobody would be marked doubtful if documents are not produced.”
 Kaushik, however said: “The country is run by law, not by assurances. Shah’s statement does not carry any meaning until the citizenship law is amended or withdrawn.”


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.