600 protesters join Newham march against controversial citizenship law in India

The march started in Romford Road on Saturday morning (January 4). Picture: Jon King

The march started in Romford Road on Saturday morning (January 4). Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

About 600 people have marched through the streets in protest against a controversial new law in India.

The march was backed by Newham All Faith Forum, Indian Muslim Federation (UK) and Newham Muslim Alli

The march was backed by Newham All Faith Forum, Indian Muslim Federation (UK) and Newham Muslim Alliance. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

Opponents of the Indian government's Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) shouted, "We need freedom" and "No to CAA" on the two mile march from Romford Road to Central Park in East Ham.

Co-organiser Shiraz Kother said: "We're here to show support to the Indian people. They are not alone. The Indian government's law is discriminatory.

Marchers outside London Sri Mahalakshmi Temple in Plashet Grove. Picture: Jon King

Marchers outside London Sri Mahalakshmi Temple in Plashet Grove. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

"There are people here of all faiths: Christian, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim, and atheists."

The CAA enables migrants and foreigners from six minority communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh who went to India because of persecution on grounds of their religion to apply for Indian citizenship.

Marchers claim the Indian government is trying to divide communities along religious lines after the

Marchers claim the Indian government is trying to divide communities along religious lines after the country's Parliament passed the Citizenship Amednment Act. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

It excludes Muslims, Tamil, Rohingya and Buddhists from Tibet. It does not change existing legal provisions which allow foreigners to apply for Indian citizenship through registration or naturalisation.

Protester Asra Anjum claimed the exclusion of these minorities and the rolling out of a requirement that all Indian citizens register on the NRC would undermine principles of India's constitution.

Protesters filled one lane of Green Street as they marched towards East Ham's Central Park. Picture:

Protesters filled one lane of Green Street as they marched towards East Ham's Central Park. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

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Bashir Patel, from the Indian Muslim Federation, said: "We should not be dividing ourselves."

London Assembly member Unmesh Desai and Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz were at the head of the march behind a banner reading, "United against racism in India".

Upkar Singh Rai, executive board member of organisation Nations Without States, was among the protes

Upkar Singh Rai, executive board member of organisation Nations Without States, was among the protesters. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

Protesters waved Indian flags and shouted, "Amit Shah, down down," and "Narendra Modi, down down", in reference to India's home affairs and prime ministers.

Mr Desai said: "This is sending a very powerful message. We are hoping the British government adds its weight to international protest against this law."

Police estimates put the total number of marchers at 600. Picture: Jon King

Police estimates put the total number of marchers at 600. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

Protester Upkar Singh Rai claimed: "India is portrayed as the biggest democracy in the world. But [its government is] now openly dividing minorities."

However, the Indian government estimates it has given citizenship to almost 4,000 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh over the last six years, with hundreds from Muslim majority communities.

Marchers pass through Ron Leighton Way. Picture: Jon King

Marchers pass through Ron Leighton Way. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

The CAA Bill was cleared by a 30-member parliamentary committee.

Saturday's march was supported by Newham All Faith Forum, the Indian Muslim Federation and Newham Muslim Alliance. It culminated in a rally at Central Park where Ms Fiaz, Mr Desai, East Ham MP Stephen Timms and others spoke.

The march arrives at Central Park ahead of a rally. Picture: Jon King

The march arrives at Central Park ahead of a rally. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

Protesters wait for the rally to begin at the Cenotaph in Central Park. Picture: Jon King

Protesters wait for the rally to begin at the Cenotaph in Central Park. Picture: Jon King - Credit: Archant

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