New Delhi (Reuters) – Before midnight on New Year’s Eve, a call to action was sent on a private WhatsApp group – within the hour, dozens gathered in the centre of the Hyderabad, many holding banners to protest a controversial new citizenship law.
Police quickly dispersed the group and briefly detained six people, but for Syed Faheem – who formed the WhatsApp group – it marked another successful flash protest, inspired by tactics used by protesters in Hong Kong.
Faheem, a software consultant, is one of a growing group of opponents to the new law who have begun to borrow tactics used in protests from Hong Kong to Paris, to protest legislation that critics say discriminates against Muslims.
In Hyderabad, some protesters say it is impossible to secure police permission to hold demonstrations, forcing them to adopt new tactics to show dissent.
“The objective is to get 30 minutes at one spot. Some people support us, others come and argue with us,” said Faheem, who has organised regular flash protests through WhatsApp messages that are amplified via social media.
The location of the protests, which change daily, are posted just an hour or two in advance, with the exact spots shared just minutes ahead of time.
Hyderabad’s police chief Anjani Kumar told Reuters people are being permitted to gather in areas such as sports grounds, or indoor auditoriums to protest, but added: “We’ve not given permission for any rally or procession because that affects traffic.”