600 protesters join Newham march against controversial citizenship law in India
PUBLISHED: 14:07 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:22 06 January 2020
About 600 people have marched through the streets in protest against a controversial new law in India.
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.
"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.
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.
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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".
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."
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.
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.
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