Expressing concern at "viral videos" of children participating in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, the country's top child rights body has asked authorities to identify and arrange counselling for them.
In a letter to the District Magistrate of South East Delhi, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said the children "may suffer from mental trauma" as a result of "rumours and miscommunication".
NCPR said that it had received a complaint which said, "These children are shouting that their elders have told them that Prime Minister and Home Minister of India will ask them to produce documents of citizenship and if they fail to produce, they will be sent to detention centers where they will not be allowed even food and clothing."
The child rights body urged the authority to issue necessary directions to the local administration and the police to identify children, shown in the viral videos, and "arrange a counselling session for them and their parents, if deemed fit". It has also asked for a report within 10 days.
For over a month, thousands of people including women and children have been on an indefinite protest at Shaheen Bagh in South East Delhi to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act protests (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The women began their protest after a brutal police crackdown on a protest at the nearby Jamia Millia Islamia university following vandalism and arson at an anti-CAA protest in the area. More than 200 students and around four cops were injured in the crackdown that saw the police fire bullets, thrash protesters and even fire teargas shells inside the university library.
The Shaheen Bagh movement has inspired demonstrations in about 20 cities across India that have been opposing the citizenship law which says non-Muslim minorities from Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can become citizens easily if they fled religious persecution and entered India before 2015, making religion a criterion for Indian citizenship. Critics believe the CAA, along with the NRC or citizen's list, will be used to target Muslims.