01/22/2020, 10.32
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'Equality' demonstrations block India for 45 days

The reason for the protests is the new citizenship law which excludes Muslims. A peaceful sit-in, started by women has attracted demonstrators of all ages, enlivened every day with songs and poetry readings. The Supreme Court postpones the discussion of petitions against the legislation.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Protesters of all ages, social classes, ethnic and religious backgrounds have been blocking India for 45 days. To the cry of "Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaai - aapas mein hain bhaai bhaai", that is "Hindu, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are brothers", millions of people are demanding for respect for human rights and the values ​​of equality, freedom and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

The reason for the protests is the new citizenship law, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (or Act, after the approval of the bicameral Parliament), which excludes Muslim migrants from the requesting citizenship. On the contrary, the rule streamlines the procedures for six other persecuted minority groups (Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Jainists and Parsis) in three neighboring countries with a Muslim majority (Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan).

Secular and religious organizations, women and children animate the streets and squares, carrying banners that exalt national unity and harmony between religions. One of the most crowded demonstrations at a national level is the one that arose spontaneously in Shaheen Bagh, a crossroads in the majority Islamic neighborhood that connects Delhi to the satellite city of Noida. Women of all denominations have gathered here since December 16, following the assault by security forces on the capital's Jamia Millia Islamia University and the beating of students.

The peaceful sit-in is revived every day with new demonstrators, who take over from some, while others have been stationing the protest for weeks. The days are animated by groups of students of all ages and backgrounds, who sing and recite poems.

One of the oldest participants is Ms. Bilquis, 82 years old, present from day one. "I go home - she says - only to wash myself or change my clothes". Born before independence achieved in 1947, the old woman never attended a demonstration. "But this time it's different,"she adds, before going back to singing with the others "Hum kya chahte? Azaadi - bhedbhav se azaadi "(We want freedom - freedom from discrimination).

Among the recent demonstrations attended by hundreds of people, there was the march of Calcutta, organized by Christians and lay people from West Bengal. On January 20, Christians of different denominations walked the streets of the city carrying banners that read: "No to divisions between people", "We are all children of God". Participants also oppose the proposed National Citizen Register (NRC), along the lines of the one in force in Assam since last year, which has deprived nearly two million people of the right to live in India.

Varsha Gaikwad, minister for education of Maharashtra, has established that from 26 January in all the schools of the coastal state (which also includes Mumbai - the largest Indian city) the Preamble of the Constitution will be recited, the text proposed by protesters because it exalts the principles of equality and legality. The goal of the state, administered in tandem with the Congress party, is to develop the civic sense among students, enhancing the values ​​of respect and freedom.

Finally, this morning the Supreme Court decided to postpone the hearing on petitions against the law to a future date. The court, chaired by S.A. Bobde believes that the bench consisting of three judges is not enough, but it is necessary to broaden the discussion to other experts who decide on the constitutionality of a norm that has already caused - by reaction - over 30 deaths.

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