Monday, 30th October 2017

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Protest in Europe over citizenship regime

Two-hour demonstration on Sunday

By Debraj Mitra in Calcutta
  • Published 18.02.20, 2:09 AM
  • Updated 18.02.20, 3:48 PM
  • 2 mins read
Indians protest the CAA-NRC-NPR near European Union Parliament on Sunday Telegraph picture

Indians living in various parts of Europe gathered near European Union Parliament in Brussels on Sunday to protest the new citizenship matrix.

The demonstration took place a day before India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar’s meeting with his EU counterparts.

“We had planned the protest at the beginning of this month as soon as we got to know of the minister’s visit,” a sound engineer who came from Germany’s Cologne, a 90-minute drive from Brussels, told Metro over the phone.

“He would be coming to explain the government’s point of view on the citizenship issue. We want to deliver the message that the Indian community is not on the same page and opposes the CAA-NRC-NPR,” the 31-year-old woman, with roots in Bengal, said.

On January 30, India dodged an embarrassment as the European Parliament postponed the vote on a joint resolution on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Jaishankar’s visit is expected to pave the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip for the India-EU summit in Brussels in the second week of March.

One of the posters at the protest venue
One of the posters at the protest venue

Sunday’s demonstration began at 1.30pm local time and continued for two hours. A reading of the Preamble to the Constitution marked the beginning. The demonstrators then sang protest anthems, starting with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge.

A student from RWTH Aachen University (Aachen is on the extreme western Germany, sharing borders with the Netherlands and Belgium) distributed cookies that had the CAA, NPR and NRC written on them and crossed by a line of cream.

A recitation of Hum kagaz nahin dikhayenge, written by screenwriter, poet and stand-up comedian Varun Grover, happened in between the sloganeering. Towards the end, the protesters chanted hum kaagaz nahin dikhayenge in their mother tongues — Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada and more.

“The temperature was less than 10 degrees and it was very windy. The barricades set up for our protest kept falling,” a participant, who came from Amsterdam, told Metro over phone.

Cookies with crossed CAA, NRC and NPR topping
Cookies with crossed CAA, NRC and NPR topping

An engineer from Augsburg, a historic city in Bavaria, Germany, attended the demonstration. The 32-year-old is a former student of Aligarh Muslim University. “It is crystal clear that the (Indian) government is moving towards fascism. I talk to my relatives regularly. I am supposed to visit India next month. But fear has seeped in, a fear just to go home,” the man, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, said.

Sunday’s protest was the second demonstration outside the office of an international institution in Europe.

On February 1, around 200 Indians from various parts of Europe had assembled outside the UN headquarters in Geneva to stage a demonstration. The gathering was a culmination of a series of protests in London, Hamburg, Munich, Warsaw, Brussels, Helsinki and other European cities.

Like last time, the organisers spread the word on social media. “We will hold protests during Modi’s visit to Brussels as well,” another participant said over phone.