Anti-CAA Protesters Turn Up Outside Jama Masjid after Friday Prayers; Rival Rallies Rock Mumbai
Congress leader Alka Lamba and former Delhi MLA Shoaib Iqbal joined the protest in the national capital, which continued for almost two hours after the Friday prayers at the mosque.
A protester holds the national flag at a demonstration against the CAA at Jama Masjid in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi: Braving cold weather, hundreds of people gathered outside the iconic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi after the Friday prayers and protested peacefully against the amended citizenship law, a week after violent protests rocked the neighbourhood on the issue.
Several thousands kilometres away, Mumbai witnessed rallies for and against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Amid heavy police deployment, the protesters in Delhi raised slogans against the law and in support of the Constitution. They also shouted: "Don't divide Indians" and "We demand equality".
Congress leader Alka Lamba and former Delhi MLA Shoaib Iqbal joined the protest, which continued for almost two hours after the Friday prayers at the mosque.
Lamba hit out at the BJP government, saying "unemployment is the real issue in the county, but you are trying to make people stand in a queue for NRC as was done during demonetisation".
"It is very essential to raise the voice of democracy for the country and for the Constitution. A central government cannot become dictatorial and impose its agenda on people," she said.
Former MLA Iqbal said he condemns violence during ant-citizenship law protests.
"Those who create violence do not belong to us. There is a movement and it will go on. If someone disturbs our peace, then he doesn't belong to us and he wants to distract our movement. We would not tolerate violence. We condemn the violence which took place last Friday," Iqbal said.
Many of those who joined the protest said the contentious law needs to be withdrawn.
"We do not want this Act and the government needs to take it back. People in the country will not stop from raising their voice against this law," said Mohammad Ismile, 41.
"This country does not need NRC and NPR. We want jobs and the government should improve our economy. We have been protesting peacefully and the violence which took place on last Friday during the march was not acceptable. We do not support violence," Mohammad Shakib, 36, said.
Violence had broken out in Daryaganj, near the Jama Masjid, last Friday during a protest against the legislation and people pelted stones at police officials and torched a vehicle.
The situation has improved gradually since.
Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad has been arrested in connection with last week's violence. Police said he had given an "inflammatory speech" after the Friday prayers.
Mumbai turns out in numbers
Students and social activists held a protest against the CAA and the NRC at the Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, while a large number of people gathered for a pro-CAA rally at the historic August Kranti Maidan, where a massive protest against the Citizenship Act was held last week.
At Azad Maidan, protesters gave slogans against the government. They carried banners decrying the Modi government over the move.
"This is an authoritarian regime. It thinks they can do anything. It is this government's responsibility to protect and not oppose the Constitution," said a student.
Another protester said this was a "faceless government", adding the Act is aimed "not against just one community but against the whole country."
At August Kranti Maidan rally, organised by BJP's Sanvidan Sanman Manch', supporters of CAA were seen carrying national flags along with placards with pro-CAA and NRC messages and shouting slogans.
They were also carrying photographs of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Big photographs of VD Savarkar, Mahatama Jyotiba Fule, Bharatmata and Shahu Maharaj were displayed on stage.
The 'Sanvidan Sanman Manch' is organising such rallies in various parts of the city. One such rally in support of CAA and NRC was organised at Dadar last week.
The organisers had planned a support march between the August Kranti Maidan to Lokmanya Tilak statue at Girgaum Chowpatty but Mumbai police denied them permission for the march citing law and order issues.
On December 19, August Kranti Maidan, where Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 told the British to quit India, witnessed a huge gathering of citizens against the CAA. Those present then included workers of non-BJP parties, students and many Bollywood personalities.
Addressing the rally, Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said the large presence at the rally indicates "massive support" to the Act.
"The opposition parties are spreading rumours and misinformation (about CAA, NRC)," Fadnavis said.
The BJP is creating awareness among people that the the Act intends to help the minorities from neighbouring countries who have faced religious persecution, he said.
Talking to reporters before participating in a rally organised by his party in support of the Act, Fadnavis accused the opposition of misleading Indian Muslims.
"Pakistan did not fulfill the (implicit) assurance during Partition that minorities will be protected (in both the countries). Hence India has to look after them because they are our people," said the former chief minister.
"The opposition is deliberately trying to create misunderstanding among Indian Muslims about the Act. For vote bank politics, opposition is trying to create unrest," he alleged.
The leaders who are saying that the Act will not be implemented in their states do not respect the Constitution, he added.
(With inputs from PTI)
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