What is NRC in India

Give up? Sharjeel Imam doesn't want to think about that at all now, on the contrary. The way he speaks on the phone, it sounds like it's really getting started. "We have to hold on," he says.

And the cold? No matter. Carry on, is his message. He encourages himself and others. "This is not an isolated protest," says Sharjeel Imam, with which he is quite right. There have been demonstrations in many areas of India since December. Imam is a student of history, he is doing his doctorate at Jawaharlal Nehru University, JNU for short, which is one of the most renowned universities in South Asia. These days, the 31-year-old, who has already trained as a software engineer, is busy promoting the protests.

They are particularly persistent in Shaheen Bagh, a district in Delhi. There, demonstrators defy winter around the clock, wrapped in blankets, many women are there. Since December 15th. Imam says there is no other way because the government is so obviously "anti-Muslim". He regards the resistance as his civic duty. Many who want to keep India as a secular and pluralistic state see it in a similar way as he does.

The controversy over the controversial changes to the Indian Citizenship Act (CAA) are paired with growing fears of a nationwide civil register (NRC) that could drive millions of Indians into statelessness. The dispute has dominated Indian politics for weeks. For the first time since the election victory of the Hindu nationalist BJP in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen on the defensive: He tried to appease critics with the assurance that no Indian had anything to fear. "But I don't trust these people," says the Muslim Imam. Sentences as one now often hears them; the protests are a symptom of an increasing division in the country, which will be more and more difficult to bridge.

Many of the demonstrations were peaceful, but violence has already erupted and the JNU campus has not been spared. This is a university that has always made India proud with its academic level. Abhijit Banerjee, Nobel Laureate in Economics is a graduate, JNU has produced dozens of well-known scientists, as well as Bollywood artists and ministers. At the same time, JNU has always been considered a stronghold of the intellectual left, which for some time has created tensions with those political forces who want to be part of the Hindu nationalist government camp and want to shape India according to their worldview.

Masked thugs beat students. Presumably on behalf of the right

During the night on January 5, the situation on the university campus escalated. Masked thugs penetrated the campus and beat students, some with iron bars. There were several dozen people injured in the attack. Among the victims, it is believed that these attackers come from the militant right-wing camp and were set in motion by the student wing of the right-wing cadre organization RSS.

The violence also raises questions about the role of the police. Imam says he saw a police officer walk ahead of a group of thugs, and students complain that police officers at the gate allowed the attackers to escape. None of the alleged right-wing thugs were initially arrested, but the police have initiated proceedings against a left-wing student leader - for alleged vandalism '.

Sharjeel Imam says of the alleged right-wing thugs: "They were primarily targeting Muslim students and also those from Kashmir." And also: "They want to intimidate us so that we can stop the protests, but that will not happen." However, it did not only affect Muslim students. Secular and liberal circles are also mobilizing resistance against the government in India, insofar as this is possible in view of the draconian bans on assembly and Internet blockades.

In order to understand why the government's politics stir up so much unrest among Muslims and also generally stir up the lower classes, one has to look at the amended CAA Citizenship Act and the planned NRC civil register in a double pack: The CAA enables illegal immigrants from three neighboring countries with Muslims Majority - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh - to be naturalized - provided they belonged to a religious minority in their homeland. This applies to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Buddhists and Parsees - only Muslims are excluded.

The government argues that it wants to give refuge to persecuted minorities from the region in this way. Critics, however, object that the state is introducing religion as a criterion for Indian citizenship for the first time. Combined with a nationwide register of citizens, the NRC, the CAA is likely to stir up even more unrest. For the NRC, everyone in India would have to prove their citizenship with documents; these are papers that the poorest, especially, often cannot show, even if they were born in India. If these people do not make it onto the official list of citizens, the CAA gives them a final loophole: They could say that they come from one of the three neighboring states and thus get their naturalization. But only if they are not Muslim.