Monday, 30th October 2017

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Protest at UN door

The gathering was a culmination of a series of protests in several European cities against CAA

By Debraj Mitra in Geneva
  • Published 3.02.20, 12:56 AM
  • Updated 3.02.20, 12:56 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Protesters outside the UN headquarters in Geneva The Telegraph picture

The United Nations headquarters in Geneva was witness to a protest against the amended citizenship act by over 200 Indian students and professionals living in different parts of Europe.

The gathering was a culmination of a series of protests in London, Hamburg, Munich, Warsaw, Brussels, Helsinki and other European cities on the same issue.

Armed with banners and posters, people travelled to Geneva from all over Europe for the three-hour demonstration. “Shut down fascism, not Internet,” read one poster. “Error 404: Hindu rashtra not found,” read another.

The protesters assembled at what is popularly known as the La Chaise or Broken Chair Compound. Undeterred by rain, they read aloud the Preamble to the Constitution. Chants of Constitution zindabad followed.

Protesters outside the UN headquarters in Geneva
Protesters outside the UN headquarters in Geneva

“The United Nations is supposed to stand up for human rights. We chose the venue to send a message,” said Sangita Seshadri, a student at Helsinki in Finland.

“I think the citizenship drive tries to alter the secular fabric of the Constitution. Till a point, I was limited to voicing my opinion on social media and arguing with relatives who support the ruling party. But I realised it was time to take to the streets. If I don’t protest now, then when?” asked Seshadri, who had taken part in three smaller protests in Helsinki, including a silent march, before flying to Geneva on Saturday.

The organisers read out statements from JNU student leader Aishe Ghosh, activist Sadaf Jafar and Ayesha Renna, the Jamia student who stood up to the police inside the varsity.

Kannan Gopinathan, the former IAS officer who quit civil service to protest the clampdown on Kashmir, gave a live speech on phone. Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad also sent an audio recording of his speech that was played by the organisers.

Protesters outside the UN headquarters in Geneva
Protesters outside the UN headquarters in Geneva

The organisers spread the word about the protest through social media.

“We protested peacefully and our dissent was not silenced. Unlike in India, where the protesters are being shot at,” said Alokeparna Ray, who came to Geneva from Cologne in Germany.

“CAA violates the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution. Clubbed with the NRC, it is the worst form of vote-bank politics. The United Nations has said that genocide does not happen overnight and hate speeches have a role in them. The ruling party in India seems to be promoting hate speeches,” said Ray, a sound engineer.