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India

Delhi police evict protesters defying virus lockdown

Police acted after a 100-day protest over India's controversial new citizenship law

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Delhi police evict protesters defying virus lockdown

Muslim women stage a protest against India's controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in New Delhi on March 23 despite a lockdown because of coronavirus. Police removed them on March 24. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News) 

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Police have cleared a protest site in New Delhi where hundreds of women were demonstrating for several months against a controversial law which they say discriminates against Muslims.

The police action on March 24 came after the government banned more than five people from gathering in any place as a measure to check the spread of coronavirus.

The protest site, Shaheen Bagh, had only some 10 people when police arrived around 7am. They arrested and removed six women and three men for violating prohibitory orders.

The protesters had refused to give up their sit-in demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) even after the government on March 23 imposed a lockdown in the national capital because of the spreading coronavirus.

On March 23, when the protest completed 100 days, organizers decided to continue the sit-in in a “symbolic way without violating” the orders, said protester Anima Khatun.

She told UCA News that they decided to have fewer than five people at a time and take turns to continue the protest in their attempt to force the government to withdraw the controversial law.

The new national law passed on Dec. 11 aims to grant citizenship to all migrants from Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan except Muslims.

Muslims, secularists and rights groups see the exclusion of Muslims as a violation of the secular principles of the Indian constitution. They also see it as an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to make India a nation of Hindu dominance.

Since parliament passed the law, millions of citizens across India have protested against it. Clashes between police and protesters and clashes have killed at least 31 people.

Christian rights activists such as Father Cedric Prakash have expressed solidarity with the protesters. The Jesuit priest told UCA News on March 23 that they were fighting for the rights of all. 

Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to spread across India, with the country having 482 confirmed cases on March 24.

Several Indian states, including Maharashtra and Punjab, have imposed a curfew and sealed borders. Delhi has also sealed its borders.

The pandemic has continued to spread globally, killing more than 16,500 people as of March 24.

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