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600 protesters join Newham march against controversial citizenship law in India

PUBLISHED: 14:07 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:22 06 January 2020

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

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

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

"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 country's Parliament passed the Citizenship Amednment Act. Picture: Jon KingMarchers 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

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

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

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

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.

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

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."

Marchers pass through Ron Leighton Way. Picture: Jon KingMarchers pass through Ron Leighton Way. Picture: Jon King

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.

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

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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