The anti-CAA protesters at Shaheen Bagh have extended an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and celebrate Valentine's Day with them on Friday. The protesters, who are staging a demonstration since December 15 last year demanding withdrawal of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC), will also unveil a "love song" and "a surprise gift" for Modi.
Posters at the protest site in south-east Delhi and also circulating on social media platforms read: "PM Modi, please come to Shaheen Bagh, collect your gift and talk to us."
"Whether Prime Minister Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah or anyone else, they can come and talk to us. If they can convince us that whatever is happening is not against the Constitution, we will end this protest," Syed Taseer Ahmed, one of the first protesters at Shaheen Bagh, told PTI. He said according to the government's claims, the CAA was "to award citizenship and not to take away someone's citizenship", but nobody explained "how is it going to help the country".
"How is CAA going to help us tackle issues of unemployment, poverty and economic slowdown, which are the most pressing issues," Ahmed said.
Protests against the CAA and the NRC unfolded at Shaheen Bagh, Zakir Nagar, Jamia Nagar, Khureji Khas and other places in the national capital and elsewhere in the country in December. The protesters at Shaheen Bagh have pitched a tent on a main road linking Noida to south-east Delhi via the Kalindi Kunj bridge, which, according to an official estimate, witnesses movement of around 1.75 lakh vehicles on a daily basis.
Ahmed said school buses, ambulances and emergency vehicles were allowed hassle-free movement since the protest started two months ago and the claim that the stir was causing a lot of problems to the common people was "exaggerated". "Had it been at the levels as it is being portrayed by some people, we would have been evacuated from here long ago. The BJP would have won the Delhi polls and the Centre would have removed us. So, this claim that the Shaheen Bagh protest is causing major inconvenience is unsubstantiated," he added.
According to the CAA, members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come to the country from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 after being subjected to religious persecution will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship. The law excludes Muslims. Those opposing the law contend that it discriminates on the basis of religion and thus, violates the Constitution.
They also allege that the CAA, along with the NRC, is intended to target the Muslim community in India. However, the Centre has dismissed the allegations, while maintaining that the law is intended to give citizenship to persecuted people from the three neighbouring countries and not to take away the citizenship of anyone.
-Inputs from PTI