Thousands of students, activists and representatives from several Indian diaspora and human rights organisations gathered opposite Downing Street in London to protest against India’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The rally, organised by student groups and Indian outfits in the UK, marched around a mile down the streets to gather outside the Indian High Commission in London.
The protesters carried placards reading Protect the Constitution, Stop Dividing India, United Against Racism in India and No Citizenship on the Basis of Religion.
The CAA came into force in India last December amid protests in India and around the world.
The Indian government has stressed that the new Act does not deny any citizenship rights but has been brought in to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries and provide them citizenship.
The protesters, from around the UK and describing themselves as representative of diverse and multi-faith Indian communities across the UK, demanded that the CAA be repealed because it undermines India’s secular Constitution .
They also called for the abolition of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), which they said in conjunction with the CAA, open the way for selective mass disenfranchisement of India’s Muslim population.
UK Opposition Labour Party MP Sam Tarry addressed the demonstrators with the message that human rights in any country is an international issue.
“We are not here as any anti-India demonstration, we are here as a pro-India demonstration. It is incredibly important that our voices are heard against laws that are not good for the future of the country,” said the east London MP.
Messages of support from Labour MPs Stephen Timms, Clive Lewis and newly-elected Indian-origin parliamentarian Nadia Whittome were also read out, calling on the UK government to take up the issue with Indian counterparts.
“On the eve of Republic Day, we are reminded of our core values of freedom, equality and diversity. We stand in solidarity with all the people in India and around the world in their fight against injustice and racism,” said Harsev Bains, of the Indian Workers Association (GB).
“The protest in front of the Brazilian embassy, which preceded the march to the Indian High Commission, seeks to highlight the fact that fascism today is a truly global problem,” said a spokesperson for the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) India Society.
Some of the other groups backing Saturday’s march included CasteWatch UK, Tamil People in the UK, Indian Muslim Federation(UK), Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO), Kashmir Solidarity Movement, South Asian Students Against Fascism among others.
Saturday’s demonstration, to mark the eve of India’s Republic Day, will be followed by another protest outside India House in London on Sunday, when pro-Pakistani and separatist groups led by Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK plan to observe a ‘Black Day’ against the Indian government.
The Indian High Commission in London has raised serious concerns for the safety of the mission and its staff and Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam had even taken up the matter with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged robust security to prevent any violence during Sunday’s protests, as the Metropolitan Police said that a proportionate policing plan would be in place.