If the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was the country's biggest talking point at the turn of the year, the major topic at present is definitely the novel coronavirus. The virus which has claimed three lives in India and affected 151 people has also effectively shut down parts of the country.
But that does not mean that the CAA protests have been forgotten.
Indeed, in many parts of the country, protesters continue to sit in quiet rebellion against the controversial law and the associated National Register of Citizens and National Population Register.
However, with the the World Health Organisation as well as the Indian government advocating social distancing, mass protests don't seem to be the best idea. In cognisance of the same, a protest at Chennai's Washermanpet was recently called off.
"Due to coronavirus spread and to support the state and the central government to contain the same, we have called off our protest," Latheef, an organizer of Shaheen Bagh Vannarapattai Anti-CAA NRC-NPR protest told ANI.
However the story is not the same everywhere. In Delhi's Shaheen Bagh protesters continue to stage a sit-in. Recent photos of the site show a large number of people sitting in close proximity. Photos shared by ANI did not show anyone wearing masks.
The protests that began in Shaheen Bagh at the end of 2019 continue in spite of a recent announcement by the Delhi government that disallows the gathering of 50 or more people till the end of March.
On Wednesday, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights wrote to the District Magistrate of South East Delhi stating that it had received a complaint regarding gathering, which they said was taking place despite an advisory issued by the state and central government.
In Chennai, hundreds gathered near the Madras High Court to demand that the CAA be revoked and to protest against the NPR. The gathering included members of the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ), a non-political Islamic organisation.
The 'jail bharo' protest at Parry's Corner in Chennai comes at a time when the country is battling the COVID-19 outbreak. The Tamil Nadu government as well as the central government has advised people to avoid mass gatherings.
Many have urged the protesters to halt their movement, even if temporarily.
"I salute Shaheen Bagh women for fighting for heart & soul of Indian Republic. They have inspired millions across the globe! But coz of the serious pandemic threat, I request them to suspend the sit-in for now. Our struggle against discriminatory CAA/NPR/NRC will continue!" wrote Umar Khalid on Twitter.
"...let us not forget that the elderly women at the protests are most vulnerable to the virus and in the interest of public health, the protests must take a break," added journalist Rana Ayyub.
On Wednesday, taking the viral outbreak into account, Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda announced that the party would not be organising or participating in any form of demonstration or agitation for the next one month.
"And if it has to give any memorandum, 4-5 party office bearers will give it to the concerned officers or the political leaders but avoid any type of conglomeration of people. All state units have been told about it, and a circular has been issued regarding the same," said Nadda.
(With inputs from agencies)
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