There have been three shootings under the watch of heavy police presence within the last few days, allegedly by Hindutva extremist at people protesting against anti-Muslims legislation at Shaheen Bagh near Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.
On Thursday 30 January, Gopal Sharma opened fire reportedly shouting “Yeh lo aazadi (here’s your freedom)… Delhi police zindabad… Hindustan zindabad” while police were photographed in the background with folded arms or hand in their pockets.
A Kashmiri student at Jamia, Shadab from amongst the protesters was injured and taken to hospital where he is known to be in a stable condition.
Ironically, 30 January marks the assassination anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi who was shot dead by a Hindu far right extremist in 1948. The Shaheen Bagh protesters were trying to march to the spot now called Gandhi Smriti but were stopped by police barricades.
Again on Saturday 1 February another man allegedly shouted “Jai Sri Ram” as he fired shots standing near police barricades setup at Shaheen Bagh to restrict movement of Shaheen Bagh protesters. No injuries were reported and the man was arrested by police.
On Sunday night 2 February, two unidentified persons opened fire on protesters outside Jamia and then fled on a scooter. Police is investigating and has registered a case of attempted murder.
Some of the top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government leaders has been calling the protesters against the discriminatory laws as anti-nationals who should be shot.
Opposition Congress party said the shooting showed comments by leaders of the ruling BJP could stoke violence. “Is this what BJP leaders … intended? Creating an armed militia of radicalised youth,” the party said in a tweet.
Earlier last week another gunman had entered the protest camp at Shaheen Bagh threatening to kill the Muslim women who are spearheading the protest against anti-Muslim laws being enacted by the current Hindu nationalist government.
India has seen the largest protests across the country since independence in 1947 following the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the Indian parliament on 11 Dec 2019.
The CAA offers Indian citizenship to migrants of any religious belief except Muslims who claim to have fled persecution in three neighbouring Muslim countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Muslim refugees from countries such as Myanmar face deportation despite the fact that they suffered far worse persecution including genocide.
Another bill to be introduced in near future will seek people across India to prove their Indian origins with specified documentation. Only people with appropriate proof will be considered Indian citizens.
However, the CAA will offer citizenship to people of all faiths except Muslims even if they are unable to produce necessary documentation, thus making CAA discriminatory on the basis of religious test.
India is home to hundreds of millions of poor people with low literacy levels who will find it hard to produce necessary documentation.
A very large percentage of these poor people are Muslims who will be rendered stateless because of their inability to have adequate documents.
These people will thus lose their basic rights and access to governments schemes and employment. Some fear that the government is planning to send them to concentration camps rendering them stateless.
The protests against the new act began in Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi and soon spread to many other university campuses across the country, including the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University and Jawahar Lal University, well known for its political activism.
Opposition political parties, human rights and civil liberties groups and ordinary masses including secular Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits (so called low caste untouchables) also came out on the roads to lodge their protests.
Many public protests in Muslim sensitive areas in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh turned violent as police dealt the protesters with extreme brutality.
Indian diaspora in many countries also held protests including Australia. These included major protest rallies in Martin Place, Sydney and at Parliament House, Melbourne late in December.
A letter from Australian PM office to a local charity Indian Minority Education Society has said that Australian government was monitoring the political developments in India. It added that the Australian government advocates for all countries to uphold human rights and liberties.
The European Parliament is set to debate and vote on a resolution tabled by some of its members against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which it says marks a “dangerous shift” in the country’s citizenship regime, making a reference to the Charter of the United Nations, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well as the India-EU Strategic partnership.
The very unique protest being held at Shaheen Bagh, reported above has attracted international attention.
For nearly a month, hundreds of defiant Muslim women have occupied the busy road under a make shift camp. A small podium which displayed the portrait of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of Indian constitution, has become a prestigious stage for politicians, national leaders, journalists, student leaders and Urdu poets.
The women, old and young, many hijab and chador-clad sit in rows as they listen to the speakers and chant revolutionary slogans such as Inquilab Zindabad.
Volunteers bring biryani meals, serve tea and snacks as children play around whose mothers are on a 24 hour vigil, many bunkering down for the night on cheap cotton mattresses in shivering cold.
The leaders of ruling BJP party are caught with surprise as they had not imagined that Indian Muslims could show such courage after years of intimidation and harassment which had brought fear into their hearts.
The Hindu extremist government is fanning communal tensions. Annexation of the State of Kashmir a few months earlier against all UN resolutions and crackdown on civil liberties ever since has been a cause of concern for human rights agencies around the world.
The current government is being blamed to have violated the Indian constitution which emphasises human dignity, civil liberties like freedom of speech and religion.
India faces an uncertain future with the current crisis worsening every passing day.