Although massive protests against India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have dominated international media coverage, there have been some demonstrations in favor of the law.
At a large rally in Bengaluru on Sunday, four men on bicycles attacked a 31-year-old pro-CAA demonstrator with knives, hospitalizing him with multiple stab wounds.
“The patient has multiple stab injuries all over the body, especially on the back and hands. His condition is stable. He will have to undergo plastic surgery,” a doctor at Victoria Hospital said on Monday. Police officials said they believed the attack was motivated by “personal reasons.”
The pro-CAA rally in Bengaluru was reportedly larger than the anti-CAA rally held in the same area a few days earlier. A prohibition against street protests was imposed on Thursday after the anti-CAA rally, obliging pro-CAA demonstrators to wait until Sunday before they could take to the streets.
Another pro-CAA march in Nagpur drew almost 25,000 participants. In addition to praising the citizenship law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and their BJP party, the marchers also denounced their adversaries in the anti-CAA movement and chanted slogans such as “Shoot the Traitors.”
“At least 20 rallies in support or against the new law were scheduled in different cities with protesters from both sides canvassing on social media to get people out over Christmas and the New Year,” Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Anti-CAA activists complained about anti-demonstration police orders and Internet blackouts hindering their ability to organize, while supporters of the law said it has been misrepresented by the opposition to generate public outrage.
“We want to explain that the law is not anti-Muslim and we want to expose that those who are leading the protests against the law are misleading innocent, uneducated Muslims,” a BJP spokesman said.
A police official in India’s heavily populated Uttar Pradesh state said the authorities have “proof” that an Islamic group headquartered in Delhi is pushing its followers to become violent during protests. Anti-CAA activists and some international observers criticized the police for cracking down much harder on demonstrations against the law and using excessive force, a charge police officials countered by claiming they have not received any official complaints of excessive force.
Pro-CAA rallies were held across 33 districts on Tuesday, organized by the BJP, an allied nationalist group called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and volunteer groups tied to one or both of them. Government officials from the BJP party attended many of the rallies.
“Though CAA is in the interest of the nation and its people, the opposition Congress is misguiding people by distorting facts. To counter that false propaganda, the Nagrik Samiti has organised this huge rally. As you can see, people have come here in large numbers to support the new law,” local legislator Purnesh Modi said at one of the rallies.
Critics of the CAA say it unfairly discriminates against Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries since it creates an easier path to citizenship for refugees from nearly every religious background except Islam. The harshest critics portray the law as an expression of BJP’s Hindu nationalism.
Supporters argue that Muslims are not included in the citizenship amendment because the countries adjacent to India are majority-Muslim, so by definition Muslims are not persecuted religious minorities, and extending CAA’s privileges to them would trigger a flood of immigration that India’s border states are not prepared to deal with.
Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah, the point man on CAA and the public figure most vigorously criticized by protesters, have been working overtime to counter charges that CAA will be combined with India’s effort to create a National Population Register (NPR) to create a mechanism for the mass deportation of Muslims. Shah offered fresh assurances on Tuesday that the Modi administration is not seeking to create a nationwide citizenship database or undertake large-scale deportations.