For over a decade, Mohammad Faizal (20), a student at a madrasa in Old Delhi, has been living in the capital with his family after they shifted from UP’s Bulandshahr. For some members of his family, the passage of the new citizenship law recently prompted a trip to their ancestral home.
“My relatives couldn’t find their land registries here and had to go to Bulandshahr. Will the poor be able to do that?” he said.
On Saturday, Faizal and his friend Abdul Rahim were among more than 1,000 protesters who gathered at Jantar Mantar against the new citizenship law and a proposed country-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC). Copies of the Act were torn at the protest, as around 100 police and paramilitary personnel deployed at the venue looked on.
Harsh Mander, a human rights activist, told the gathering: “The ruling administration has sparked a war… against three sections: Indian Muslims, opposition voices, and the Constitution.”
Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the speakers at the event, said, “This is the BJP’s next step in achieving a Hindu Rashtra.”
Several people expressed apprehensions about a country-wide NRC, and what could happen if they can’t find requisite documents.
Tasleem Ansari (47) from Old Mustafabad in East Delhi claimed thousands from his village in UP’s Bijnor district would not have the required documents as they have been destroyed by floods many times in the past.
“There will be people of all religions who would not have the documents,” he said.
Deepak Agnihotri (28), a city-based architect, said, “This (Act) is also anti-poor; many people are unaware of its implications.”
Shahabuddin Saifi (42), a resident of Uttam Nagar in West Delhi, said, “Many people in my village have started lining up in offices to get their land records and birth certificates made. But they are being charged a lot of money.”
Another concern protesters voiced was of misspelled names in documents. Imam Uddin, a lecturer in a government school and resident of Seelampur in East Delhi, got his name renewed in his voter ID card recently, which still does not carry the correct spelling.
“Some people in offices where document forms are filled do not understand the spelling of our names, and that will create problems in case NRC comes,” he said.
The protest continued until early evening, with people breaking into groups and raising slogans against the Act. Some women and men were seen offering evening prayers, while others waved the tricolour and held up placards condemning the new law.
(Shaardhool Shreenath is an intern with The Sunday Express)