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Delhi women protesters inspire more occupations across India

NEW DELHI: Defiant women who have been blocking a New Delhi highway for more than four weeks in protest against a disputed citizenship law have inspired thousands across India to copy their challenge to the Hindu nationalist government.

Supported by volunteers who bring meals, chai and blankets, groups have started occupation protests in about 20 cities across the country of 1.3 billion people to demand the repeal of the law that opponents say is anti-Muslim.

Nearly all pay tribute to the 200 grandmothers and housewives and students who sit and sleep across the main road in the Shaheen Bagh district of Delhi, fighting a law that would give passports to "persecuted" religious minorities from three neighbouring countries - but only non-Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in rallies across India since Parliament passed the law on Dec 11.

At least 27 people have died in violence around some rallies.

Protesters have taken over parks and streets in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh states.

Student Srijan Chawla, a protest leader in Mumbai, said: "Shaheen Bagh has inspired a lot of women in this country to protest. Be it Kolkata, be it Delhi, be it here in Mumbai."

Hundreds of protesters have spent nearly three weeks on public land in Gaya in Bihar.

"We cannot sit silent at home when the government is hellbent on stealing our citizenship," said activist Shagufta Amin at Sabzibagh in Bihar, where weekend crowds swell to thousands. - AFP

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