Archbishop Menamparampil: singing and fasting against the ‘anti-Muslim’ law
In Assam, telephone services have been blocked and the army is patrolling the streets intimidating shoppers. Universities protests are symptomatic of “fears among all minorities, Tribals, and Dalits”. The Evangelical Fellowship calls for the repeal of the law, which is also ruining the atmosphere of Christmas.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s new citizenship law excluding Muslims continues to cause protests. In Assam, students are using “creative ideas to express their protest in a more peaceful way,” said Mgr Thomas Menamparampil, archbishop emeritus of Guwahati, speaking to AsiaNews. This has included fasting and singing.
The prelate managed to communicate with the outside world for only a few minutes, since Indian authorities blocked telephones to keep protests under control. Still, despite the latter, "The restlessness is not likely to subside in the short term,” said the bishop.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which has sparked strong protests across the country, is considered discriminatory against the Muslim community.
After the weekend clashes at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, police arrested ten people already known to the authorities. None of them attend the prestigious university, the first to take a stance for equality of all citizens. Nevertheless, students in the capital were joined yesterday by other universities across the country (picture 2).
“Muslims are displeased that that they are left out of the list of those who will be given citizenship,” said Mgr Menamparampil. “The Assamese are distressed that, if the Act is implemented fully, they will be reduced to a minority in their own homeland,” whilst “smaller ethnic groups, tribal communities, know that they are even weaker before more numerous and sturdier communities from outside.”
Faced with all this, Assamese students reacted more peaceful than others. “They fasted for a day,” said the Archbishop. “They held a musical programme precisely to express their anger and sense of displeasure.”
“The authorities claim an improvement,” he added. “However, the army men are everywhere with sirens blowing intimidation into the hearts people who come out” shopping.
Since the crisis developed, activists and Muslims have condemned the law. They were joined yesterday by the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which expressed outrage, calling on the central government to repeal the law that is undermining, among other things, the peaceful atmosphere of Christmas.
For EFI general secretary Rev Vijayesh Lal, protests “in India’s many universities by students,” the country’s “future decision-makers,” are “an indication of this.”
“The dangerous experiment of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, and the government’s assurance that illegal migrants would be pardoned and given citizenship if they belonged to religions other than Islam, exposes the motives and the political agenda.”
For the Christian leader, the discriminatory policy pursued by the Hindu nationalist government began in August with Kashmir, which lost its special autonomy, and now continues with the Register in Assam and the current citizenship law.
All this has “roused fears among all minorities, Tribals, and Dalits about their future welfare and status as full citizens.” For Rev Lal, “The government needs to focus immediately on restoring peace, reassuring people and taking urgent steps to stabilise the economy, reduce prices and revive employment.” (A.C.F.)