Bollywood stars join protests against India's controversial new citizenship law

Bollywood actress Richa Chadha speaks to FRANCE 24 about India's new citizenship law.
Bollywood actress Richa Chadha speaks to FRANCE 24 about India's new citizenship law. © FRANCE 24 screengrab

In India, protests against a new citizenship law have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together across the country. The law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.


Protests of the law in Delhi began at the mainly Muslim Jamia Millia Islamia University, where after a bus was set on fire police pursued protesters, shooting teargas canisters into the campus library and beating students with batons.

The law approved by Parliament on December 11 allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who are in India illegally to become citizens.

Leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say Muslims were excluded because persecution on religious grounds isn’t possible in Muslim-majority countries.

Critics have slammed the legislation as a violation of India’s secular constitution, which guarantees equal protection for all, and have called it the latest effort by the Modi government to marginalise the country’s 200 million Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the law as a humanitarian gesture. Dozens of petitions challenging the law are pending with the Supreme Court.

Bollywood stars have joined the protest, including Richa Chadha.

“Why don’t Indian actors speak up like Robert de Niro and Jane Fonda?" said Chadha. "The fact is that I don’t think we have a fully functioning free judiciary. Unlike in the West, we don’t have a strong actors union, who can protect someone if they are being harassed for standing up.”

Click on the player above to watch this special FRANCE 24 report by Anis Benabdallah, Nicolas Blatchley, Thomas Denis and Philomene Remy.

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