As resistance shows across India, women lead the charge

Thousands of activists brave one of India’s coldest winters to fight new citizenship law that discriminates against Muslims

On the evening of December 15, dozens of people gathered in Delhi to participate in a peaceful sit-in in Shaheen Bagh, a working-class Muslim quarter in India.

Crowds protested the Citizenship Amendment Act: a law passed in India last month that will grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, but will block the naturalization of Muslims, who represent 13.4% of the Indian population. A month later, thousands of protesters remain on the occupied road – led mainly by Muslim women in hijab and burqa.

Thousands of people joined in the Shaheen Bagh sit-in (Getty Images)

They are fighting to have the CAA revoked because they fear that its implementation could put many Muslims at risk of being expelled from the country or to detention centers.

Not only did the Shaheen Bagh protest make the headlines in the national newspapers, but it also inspired similar protests in cities across India. While some of them fell victim to violence, the crowded Shaheen Bagh site remained peaceful.

Group of Kolkata women launch sit-in campaign inspired by Delhi protesters Shaheen Bagh (Getty Images)

Speaking to the BBC, Syeda Hameed, founder of the Delhi Muslim Women’s Forum, explained the importance of the number of ordinary Muslim women who lend their voices to the national debate: “These women are not activists. It’s the first time they’ve spoken out on a national issue that crosses religious boundaries and I think it’s important. While this has something to do with victimization of the (Muslim) community, it is still a secular problem. “

An CAA mural by an artist on the road to the blockade occupied by the women of Shaheen Bagh (Getty Images)

Media reports say police will try to persuade the remaining protesters in Shaheen Bagh to end their sit-in, which has forced commuters to use alternative routes every day for the past month. The sit-in took place in December after students from Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University clashed with police, which led officers to enter campus later and assault staff and students.

“The law violates the constitution,” university student Humaira Sayed told the BBC. “He may target Muslims at the moment, but we are confident that he will also gradually target other communities. As a Muslim, I know that I have to be here for my brothers, my sisters, the community and for everyone. world. “