New Delhi, India – Protesters in India have launched a postcard campaign in which they plan to send thousands of letters to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to rollback the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) seen as anti-Muslim.
Demonstrators in the Muslim-dominated Shaheen Bagh area of the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Saturday wrote postcards asking the Hindu nationalist leader to not force them to prove their citizenship.
CAA, passed by the Indian parliament last month, fast-tracks naturalisation of non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – who came to India before 2015.
The government says the law is aimed at helping “persecuted” minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – in the three countries, but blocks naturalisation for Muslims.
The opposition parties and activists say the CAA violates India’s secular constitution and have challenged the law in the Supreme Court, which is due to hear multiple pleas next week.
Fears of losing citizenship
Coupled with a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), Muslims, who form nearly 15 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population, fear the moves are aimed at marginalising them, an allegation the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denies.
However, the BJP government last month also launched a National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which activists say will serve as a database for an eventual NRC that will force people to show documentary evidence of their nationality.
The postcards being collected at Shaheen Bagh, a women-led epicentre of India’s anti-CAA protests, appealed to Modi to repeal the CAA and declare that Indians will not be forced to prove their citizenship.
“Modi ji [an honorific in Hindi], please stop CAA, NRC and NPR. We completely reject these divisive acts on the basis of religion. Please don’t divide India. We really love India,” read one of the letters.
Another postcard by Noor Aisha said Muslims were not asked for any proof of nationality when they were fighting for freedom from the British rule.
“When our country got freedom from British, no one was asked to prove their citizenship to be a part of the freedom struggle. Now, why is there a need to prove our citizenship after such a long time?” she asked.
“I don’t need any proof to prove my Indian citizenship.”
The postcard campaign has been started by Friends of Shaheen Bagh, an informal collective that includes, apart from women at Shaheen Bagh, journalists, academics and activists.
“We collected almost 1,800 postcards today. This is our first event and we are planning to conduct similar events next week,” Samiya Javed, 29, one of the activists behind the campaign told Al Jazeera.
“We are focusing on Shaheen Bagh as of now and plan to expand it to Jaffarabad and Seelampuri, where the movement is being led by Muslim women,” she added, referring to the other Muslim-majority areas in the Indian capital.
Javed said the postcards, written in English, Hindi and Urdu languages, will be collected over the weekend and sent to the Indian prime minister on Monday.
‘Join us for tea’
Meanwhile, the women of Shaheen Bagh, who have been holding a sit-in at a highway for more than a month, also invited Modi to meet them on Saturday at their protest site.
“We invite the Prime Minister of India to Shaheen Bagh to join us for tea, witness our resolve and listen to our concern,” read a poster with hashtag #TumKabAaoge (When will you come).
On India’s Twitter, a similar hashtag in Hindi, which translates to ‘Modi, when will you come to Shaheen Bagh’ was one of the top trends on Saturday.
But BJP spokesman Syed Shahnawaz Hussain told Al Jazeera Modi will not meet the Shaheen Bagh protesters.
“Why would Prime Minister Modi go there? There are protests going at multiple places across the country. Does that mean the prime minister will go everywhere?” he told Al Jazeera.
“Both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have made it clear that no Indian will lose citizenship under CAA. It’s to give citizenship and not to take away anyone’s citizenship,” Hussain added.
But the BJP’s repeated denials have failed to reassure the protesters, with nationwide demonstrations against the CAA killing nearly 30 people so far.